Question Fourteen: Faith

What is belief?
What is faith?
Is faith a virtue?
What is the subject in which faith exists?
Is charity the form of faith?
Is formless faith a virtue?
Is the habit of formless faith the same as that of formed faith?
Is first truth the proper object of faith?
Can faith deal with things which are known as scientific conclusions?
Is it necessary for man to have faith?
Is it necessary to believe explicitly?
Is there one faith for moderns and ancients?


The question treats of faith,

and in the first article we ask:

What is belief?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 23, 2, 2, sol. 1; Ad Hebr., c. 11, lect. 1; S.T., II-II, 2, 1.]


Augustine says, and the Gloss on the second Epistle to the Corinthians (3:5), “Not that we are sufficient to think repeats: “to believe is to think with assent.” But this description does not seem to fit in with our other knowledge, for

1. The knower is distinguished from the believer, as is clear from Augustine. But the knower, precisely as knowing, thinks something over and gives assent to it. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that “belief is thought with assent.”

2. Such thought (cogitatio) implies some inquiry, for so to think (cogitare) is, as it were, to shake together (coagitare), that is, to separate and compare one thing with another. But inquiry is not part of the concept of faith, for Damascene says: “Faith is consent without inquiry.”Therefore, it is wrong to say that “belief is thought with assent.”

3. Belief is an act of the understanding. But assent seems to belong to the affections, for we are said to consent to something with the affections. Therefore, assent has no place in belief.

4. We do not say that a person is thinking [discursively] unless he is actually considering something, as is clear from Augustine. But even one who is not actually considering something is said to believe, for example, one of the faithful who is asleep. Therefore, to believe is not to think in this way.

5. A simple light is the principle of simple knowledge. But faith is a kind of simple light, as is clear from Dionysius. Therefore, belief, which is from faith, is simple knowledge, and so it is not [discursive] thought, which means knowledge involving comparison.

6. Faith, as is commonly said, assents to the first truth because of itself. But one who gives assent to something after comparison does not accept it because of itself, but because of the other thing with which he compared it. Therefore, in the act of believing there is no comparison and, consequently, no [discursive] thought.

7. Faith is said to be more certain than every science and all knowledge. But principles, because of their certitude, are known without [discursive] thought or comparison. Therefore, belief, also, takes place without such thought.

8. A spiritual power has greater efficacy than a bodily power. Therefore, a spiritual light has greater efficacy than a bodily light. But an external bodily light gives the eye the perfection immediately to perceive visible bodies for which the inborn light was insufficient. So the spiritual light, coming from on high, gives the intellect the perfection to know without comparison and [discursive] thought even those things which our natural reason cannot reach. And, so, in belief there is no [discursive] thought.

9. Philosophers assign the cogitative power to the sensitive part of man. But belief belongs only to the mind, as Augustine says. Therefore, belief is not thought.


Augustine has given a satisfactory description of belief, since such a definition shows forth the nature of belief and distinguishes it from all other acts of understanding. This is clear in the following. For, according to the Philosopher, our understanding has a twofold operation. There is one by which it forms the simple quiddities of things, as what man is, or what animal is. This operation of itself does not involve truth or falsity, just as phrases do not. The second operation of the understanding is that by which it joins and divides concepts by affirmation or denial. Now, in this operation we do find truth and falsity, just as we do in the proposition, which is its sign. Belief, however, does not occur in the first operation, but only in the second, for we believe what is true and disbelieve what is false. For this reason, also, the first operation of the understanding is called imagination of the understanding and the second faith, even among the Arabians, as is clear from the words of the Commentator.

The possible intellect, however, as far as its own nature is concerned, is in potency to all intelligible forms, just as first matter of itself is in potency to all sensible forms. Therefore, it has no intrinsic determination which necessitates joining rather than dividing concepts, or the converse. Now, everything which is undetermined with reference to two things is not limited to one of them unless by something which moves it. But only two things move the possible intellect: its proper object, which is an intelligible form, that is, a quiddity, as is said in The Soul, and the will, which moves all the other powers, as Anselm says. In this way, then, our possible intellect is related differently to the extremes of a contradictory proposition.

For, sometimes, it does not tend toward one rather than the other, either because of a lack of evidence, as happens in those problems about which we have no reasons for either side, or because of an apparent equality of the motives for both sides. This is the state of one in doubt, who wavers between the two members of a contradictory proposition.

Sometimes, however, the understanding tends more to one side than the other; still, that which causes the inclination does not move the understanding enough to determine it fully to one of the members. Under this influence, it accepts one member, but always has doubts about the other. This is the state of one holding an opinion, who accepts one member of the contradictory proposition with some fear that the other is true.

Sometimes, again, the possible intellect is so determined that it adheres to one member without reservation. This happens sometimes because of the intelligible object and sometimes because of the will. Furthermore, the intelligible object sometimes acts mediately, sometimes immediately. It acts immediately when the truth of the propositions is unmistakably clear immediately to the intellect from the intelligible objects themselves. This is the state of one who understands principles, which are known as soon as the terms are known, as the Philosopher says. Here, the very nature of the thing itself immediately determines the intellect to propositions of this sort. The intelligible object acts mediately, however, when the understanding, once it knows the definitions of the terms, is determined to one member of the contradictory proposition in virtue of first principles. This is the state of one who has science.

Sometimes, however, the understanding can be determined to one side of a contradictory proposition neither immediately through the definitions of the terms, as is the case with principles, nor yet in virtue of principles, as is the case with conclusions from a demonstration. And in this situation our understanding is determined by the will, which chooses to assent to one side definitely and precisely because of something which is enough to move the will, though not enough to move the understanding, namely, since it seems good or fitting to assent to this side. And this is the state of one who believes. This may happen when someone believes what another says because it seems fitting or useful to do so.

Thus, too, we are moved to believe what God says because we are promised eternal life as a reward if we believe. And this reward moves the will to assent to what is said, although the intellect is not moved by anything which it understands. Therefore, Augustine says: “Man can do other things unwillingly, but he can believe only if he wills it.”

It is clear from what has just been said that assent is not to be found in that operation of the understanding by which it forms the simple quiddities of things, for there is no truth or falsity there. For we are not said to assent to anything unless we hold it as true. Likewise, one who doubts does not have assent, because he does not hold to one side rather than the other. Thus, also, one who has an opinion does not give assent, because his acceptance of the one side is not firm. The Latin word sententia (judgment), as Isaac and Avicenna say, is a clear or very certain comprehension of one member of a contradictory proposition. And assentire (assent) is derived from sententia. Now, one who understands gives assent, because he holds with great certainty to one member of a contradictory proposition. Such a one, however does not employ discursive thought, because he fixes on one side without any process of comparison. One who has scientific knowledge, however, does use discursive thought and gives assent, but the thought causes the assent, and the assent puts an end to the discursive thought. For by the very act of relating the principles to the conclusions he assents to the conclusions by reducing them to the principles. There, the movement of the one who is thinking is halted and brought to rest. For in scientific knowledge the movement of reason begins from the understanding of principles and ends there after it has gone through the process of reduction. Thus, its assent and discursive thought are not Parallel, but the discursive thought leads to assent, and the assent brings thought to rest.

But, in faith, the assent and the discursive thought are more or less parallel. For the assent is not caused by the thought, but by the will, as has just been said. However, since the understanding does not in this way have its action terminated at one thing so that it is conducted to its proper term, which is the sight of some intelligible object, it follows that its movement is not yet brought to rest. Rather, it still thinks discursively and inquires about the things which it believes, even though its assent to them is unwavering. For, in so far as it depends on itself alone, the understanding is not satisfied and is not limited to one thing; instead, its action is terminated only from without. Because of this the understanding of the believer is said to be “held captive,” since, in place of its own proper determinations, those of something else are imposed on it: “bringing into captivity every understanding...” (2 Cor. 10:5). Due to this, also, a movement directly opposite to what the believer holds most firmly can arise in him, although this cannot happen to one who understands or has scientific knowledge.

Accordingly, it is thus by assent that belief is distinguished from the operation through which the understanding sees simple forms, that is, quiddities; thus, too, it is distinguished from doubt and opinion. It is by discursive thought, however, that it is distinguished from understanding, and by the fact that assent and discursive thought are, as it were, parallel and simultaneous, that it is distinguished from scientific knowledge.

Answers to Difficulties

1. The answer to the first difficulty is clear from the reply.

2. Faith is called a consent without inquiry in so far as the consent of faith, or assent, is not caused by an investigation of the understanding. Nonetheless, this does not prevent the understanding of one who believes from having some discursive thought or comparison about those things which he believes.

3. The will looks to a power which precedes it, namely, the intellect, but the intellect does not. Therefore, assent properly belongs to the intellect, because it means an absolute adherence to that to which assent is given. Consent (consentire) belongs properly to the will, because to consent is to think something (sentire) along with something else (simul cum alio). And it is so called in relation to, or in comparison with, something which went before.

4. Since habits are known through their acts, and are themselves the source of their acts, habits are thus sometimes given the names of the acts. For this reason the names of acts sometimes are taken in their proper sense, that is, as referring to the acts themselves, and sometimes as referring to the habits. Belief, therefore, as meaning the act of faith, always includes actual consideration. However, when it is taken for the habit of belief, it does not. It is in this sense that one who is asleep is said to believe, in so far as he has the habit of faith.

5. In faith there is some perfection and some imperfection. The firmness which pertains to the assent is a perfection, but the lack of sight, because of which the movement of discursive thought still remains in the mind of one who believes, is an imperfection. The perfection, namely, the assent, is caused by the simple light which is faith. But, since the participation in this light is not perfect, the imperfection of the understanding is not completely removed. For this reason the movement of discursive thought in it stays restless.

6. The argument given proves or concludes that discursive thought is not the cause of the assent of faith, but not that it does not accompany the assent of faith.

7.Certitude can mean two things. The first is firmness of adherence, and with reference to this, faith is more certain than any understanding [of principles] and scientific knowledge. For the first truth, which causes the assent of faith, is a more powerful cause than the light of reason, which causes the assent of understanding or scientific knowledge. The second is the evidence of that to which assent is given. Here, faith does not have certainty, but scientific knowledge and understanding do. It is because of this, too, that understanding has no discursive thought.

8. The argument given would conclude correctly if we had perfect participation in that spiritual light, as we will in heaven, where we shall see perfectly the things which we now believe. But now, the things which are known because of that light do not clearly appear, because of our defective participation in that light, and not because of the power of the spiritual light itself.

9. The cogitative power is that which is highest in the sensitive part of man, and, thus, sense in some way comes in contact with the intellective part so that it participates in something of that which is lowest in the intellective part, namely, discursive reason. This is in accord with the rule of Dionysius that contact is established where the lower begins and the higher leaves off. For this reason, also, the cogitative power is called the particular reason, as is clear from the Commentator. This exists only in man; in brutes, its place is taken by the natural judgment [of instinct]. Therefore, reason as a faculty, which is in the intellective part, sometimes receives its name from discursive thought because of the similarity of operation.


Q. 14: Faith


In the second article we ask:

What is faith?

[Parallel readings: S.T., II-II, 4, 1.]


The Apostle says (Hebrews 11:1) that faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence [argumentum] of things that appear not.” This seems to be incorrect, for

1. No quality is a substance, but faith is a quality since it is a virtue, which is a good quality.... Therefore, faith is not a substance.

2. Spiritual being is added to natural being and is its perfection. For this reason it should be similar to it. But in man’s natural being the substance of his being is called the very essence of the soul, which is first act. But a power, which is the principle of second act, is not called the essence. So, also, in spiritual being neither faith nor any virtue should be called the essence, for a virtue is a proximate principle of operation and so perfects the power. Grace should rather be called the essence, for spiritual being comes from grace as from its first act, and grace perfects the very essence of the soul.

3 It was said that faith is called substance because it is first among the virtues.—On the contrary, virtues can be considered in three ways: with reference to their habits, to their objects, and to their powers. But with reference to their habits faith is not prior to the others, for this definition seems to give the definition of faith only in so far as it is formed (formata). For it is only in this way that it is a foundation, as Augustine says. All freely given habits, however, are infused at the same time. Likewise, faith seems to have no priority over the others with reference to their objects. For faith does not strive more for the true itself, which seems to be its proper object, than charity does for the highest good, or hope does for that which is hardest to attain, or for God’s greatest generosity. Nor is faith prior with reference to their powers, for every freely given virtue seems to look to the affections. Therefore, faith is in no way prior to the others, and so it should not be called the foundation or the substance of the others.

4. Things to be hoped for exist in us through charity rather than through faith. Therefore, this definition seems to fit charity better than faith.

5. Since hope is begotten of faith, as is clear from the Gloss, if one defines hope correctly, faith must be included in its definition. Hope, however, is included in the definition of the thing to be hoped for. Now, if the thing hoped for is included in the definition of faith, we shall have a circle in our definitions; but this is illogical because thus something would be prior to, and better known than, itself. For the thing itself would then be put in its own definition, since definitions are used in place of the names of things. Hence, in defining a thing there would be an unending process.

6. Different habits have different objects. But the theological virtues have the same thing for their end and object. Therefore, in the theological virtues there must be different ends for the different virtues. But the thing to be hoped for is the proper end of hope. Therefore, it should not be included in the definition of faith either as its end or its object.

7. Faith is brought to perfection through charity rather than through hope, and so it is said to be formed through charity. Therefore, in the definition of faith we should include the object of charity, which is the good or what is to be loved, rather than the object of hope, which is the thing to be hoped for.

8. Faith refers especially to the articles of faith. However, not all these articles, but only one or two, “the resurrection of the body and life everlasting,” refer to things to be hoped for. Therefore, the thing to be hoped for should not be included in the definition of faith.

9. Argument (argumentum) is an act of reason. But faith pertains to those things which are above reason. Therefore, faith should not be called an argument.

10. In the soul there is a twofold movement, one from the soul and one to the soul. In the movement to the soul the principle is extrinsic; in that from the soul, it is intrinsic. Now, the same principle cannot be intrinsic and extrinsic. Therefore, the same principle of movement cannot be to the soul and from the soul. However, cognition takes place through a movement to the soul, but affection through a movement from the soul. Therefore, neither faith nor anything else can be the principle of affection and cognition. For this reason it is illogical to put in the definition of faith something pertaining to affection: “the substance of things hoped for,” and something pertaining to cognition: “evidence of things that appear not.”

11. One habit cannot belong to different powers. But the affective and the intellective are different powers. Since, then, faith is one habit, it cannot pertain to cognition and affection. We conclude as before.

12. Each habit has one act. Since, therefore, two acts are included in the definition of faith, namely, to make things hoped for subsist in us, in so far as it is called “the substance of things hoped for,” and to convince the mind, in so far as it is called “the evidence of things that appear not,” this does not seem a satisfactory description.

13. Understanding is prior to the affections. But that which is called “the substance of things hoped for” pertains to the affections, while that which is added in the words, “evidence of things that appear not,” belongs to understanding. Therefore, the parts of the aforesaid definition are not in their proper order.

14. Evidence is said to be that which convinces the mind to assent to something. But the mind is convinced to give assent to things because they become apparent to it. Therefore, the object, which is said to be “evidence of things that appear not,” seems to involve a contradiction.

15. Faith is a sort of knowledge. But all knowledge takes place in so far as something appears to the knower, for something appears in sensitive as well as in intellectual knowledge. Therefore, it is illogical to say that faith is “of things that appear not.”


According to some, when the Apostle gave this definition, he did not want to show what faith is, but what faith does. However, it seems that we should rather say that this description is a very complete definition. It is such, not in the sense that it is given according to the required form of a definition, but because in it there is sufficient mention of everything which is necessary for a definition of faith. For, sometimes, even when dealing with philosophers themselves, it is enough to mention the principles of syllogisms and definitions because, once they have them, it is a simple matter to reduce them to due form according to the rules of the art. This is clear from three considerations.

First, from the fact that it mentions all the principles on which the nature of faith depends. For the state of the believer, as has been said above, is such that the intellect is determined to something through the will, and the will does nothing except in so far as it is moved by its object, which is the good to be sought for and its end. In view of this, faith needs a twofold principle, a first which is the good that moves the will, and a second which is that to which the understanding gives assent under the influence of the will.

Man, however, has a twofold final good, which first moves the will as a final end. The first of these is proportionate to human nature since natural powers are capable of attaining it. This is the happiness about which the philosophers speak, either as contemplative, which consists in the act of wisdom, or active, which consists first of all in the act of prudence, and in the acts of the other moral virtues as they depend on prudence.

The other is the good which is out of all proportion with man’s nature because his natural powers are not enough to attain to it either in thought or desire. It is promised to man only through the divine liberality: “The eye hath not seen...” (1 Cor. 2:9). This is life everlasting. It is because of this good that the will is inclined to give assent to those things which it holds by faith. Thus the Gospel according to St. John (6:40) reads: “Everyone who seeth the Son, and believeth in him may have life everlasting.”

But nothing can be directed to any end unless there pre-exists in it a certain proportion to the end, and it is from this that the desire of the end arises in it. This happens in so far as, in a certain sense, the end is made to exist inchoatively within it, because it desires nothing except in so far as it has some likeness of the end. This is why there is in human nature a certain initial participation of the good which is proportionate to that nature. For self-evident principles of demonstrations, which are seeds of the contemplation of wisdom, naturally preexist in that good, as do principles of natural law, which are seeds of the moral virtues.

For this reason also, for man to be ordained to the good which is eternal life, there must be some initial participation of it in him to whom it is promised. However, eternal life consists in the full knowledge of God, as is clear from John (17:3): “Now this is eternal life....” Consequently, we must have within us some initial participation of this supernatural knowledge. We have it through faith, which by reason of an infused light holds those things which are beyond our natural knowledge.

Now, in composite things whose parts have an order, it is customary to call the first part the substance of the whole thing, for in that part there is a beginning of the whole. Examples of this are the foundation of a house and the hull of a ship. In keeping with this, the Philosopher says: “If being were one whole, its first part would be substance.” Similarly, faith is called “the substance of things hoped for,” inasmuch as it is for us an initial participation of the eternal life for which we hope by reason of the divine promise. And in this way mention is made of the relation between faith and the good which moves the will in its determination of the intellect.

But the will, under the movement of this good, proposes as worthy of assent something which is not evident to the natural understanding. In this way it gives the understanding a determination to that which is not evident, the determination, namely, to assent to it. Therefore, just as the intelligible thing which is seen by the understanding determines the understanding, and for this reason is said to give conclusive evidence (arguere) to the mind; so also, something which is not evident to the understanding determines it and convinces (arguere) the mind because the will has accepted it as something to which assent should be given. For this reason another reading has proof (convictio) [in place of evidence (argumentum)], for it convinces the intellect in the aforesaid manner. So, in the words, “evidence of things that appear not,” mention is made of the relation of faith to that to which the understanding assents.

And, so, in the words, “of things that appear not,” we have the subject matter or object of faith; in “evidence” we have the act; and in “the substance of things to be hoped for” we have the ordination to the end. From the act we can understand the genus, that is, habit, which is known through the act, and the subject, that is, the mind. And nothing else is needed for the definition of a virtue. Consequently, from what has been said, we can establish a definition scientifically, and say: “Faith is a habit of our mind, by which eternal life begins in us, and which makes our understanding assent to things which are not evident.”

The second sign that this is a good definition is that through it we can distinguish faith from everything else. For by the words, “of those things that appear not,” faith is distinguished from scientific knowledge and understanding. By the word “evidence” it is distinguished both from opinion and doubt, in which the mind is not convinced, that is, is not determined to one thing. This also distinguishes it from all habits which are not cognitive. By the words, “substance of things to be hoped for,” it is distinguished from faith in the wide sense, namely, that by which we are said to believe that about which we have an opinion which we hold tenaciously, or to believe on the testimony of some man. This also distinguishes it from prudence and from the other cognitive habits, which are either not ordained to things hoped for, or, if so ordained, do not include an initial participation in us of the things hoped for.

The third sign that this is a good definition derives from this, that anyone wanting to define faith will have to include the whole definition or some part of it in other words. For, when Damascene says: “Faith is the substance [hypostasis] of those things that are hoped for, and the proof of those things which are not seen,”s he obviously is saying the same thing as the Apostle. When he adds: “Unshakeable and irreproachable hope of those things which have been announced to us by God, and of the fulfillment of our petitions,” he is explaining what had been included in the words, “substance of things to be hoped for.” For the things primarily to be hoped for are the rewards promised us by God, and, secondarily, whatever else we seek from God which is necessary for the former and about which our faith gives us certain hope. This hope cannot fail, and so it is called “unshakeable.” Nor can it be justly censured as vain, and so it is called “irreproachable.”

Augustine’s statement: “Faith is the virtue by which what is not seen is believed”; and Damascene’s: “Faith is a consent without inquiry”;” and Hugh of St. Victor’s: “Faith is a certainty of the mind about things absent which is more than opinion, but less than scientific knowledge,” all mean the same as the Apostle’s words: “Evidence of things that appear not.” Yet, it is said to be “less than scientific knowledge” because faith does not have vision as science does, although it has the same firm adherence. And yet it is said to be “more than opinion” because of the firmness of the assent. Thus, it is said to be “less than science” in so far as it refers to “things that appear not,” and “more than opinion” in so far as it refers to conviction (argumentum). For the rest, what we have said is explanation enough.

Moreover, when Dionysius says: “Faith is the solid foundation of those who believe, establishing them in the truth, and the truth in them,” he is saying the same thing that the Apostle says in the words: “substance of things to be hoped for.” For knowledge of the truth is a thing to be hoped for, since “beatitude is nothing else than rejoicing over the truth,” as Augustine says.

Answers to Difficulties

1. Faith is called a substance, not because it is in the category of substance, but because it has a certain similarity to substance, namely, in so far as it is the initial participation and a kind of foundation of the whole spiritual life, just as substance is the foundation of all beings.

2. The Apostle wanted to compare faith with those things which are outside of us, and not with what is within us. However, even though the essence of the soul in its natural being is that which is first and is substance with reference to the powers, habits, and everything consequent upon substance which inheres in it, nevertheless, the relation to external things is not primarily in the essence but in the powers. Likewise, this relation is not found in grace, but in virtue, and primarily in faith. Hence, it could not be said that grace was the substance of things to be hoped for, but that faith was.

3. Faith precedes the other virtues, with reference to its object, the power in which it inheres, and its habit. With reference to its object it takes precedence, not because it has a stronger inclination toward its object than the other virtues toward theirs, but because it is natural for its object to cause movement before the objects of charity and the other virtues. This is evident because it is only through understanding that a good causes movement, as is said in The Soul, but the true does not need any movement of appetite to set the understanding in motion. Consequently, the act of faith is naturally prior to the act of charity. Similarly, the habit is also prior, although, when faith is formed (formata), they are simultaneous. For the same reason the cognitive power is naturally prior to the affective. Now, faith belongs to the cognitive part, as is clear from the fact that its proper object is the true and not the good. But faith does in a certain sense have its fulfillment in the will, as will be shown later.

4. As is clear from what has already been said, the initial participation of things to be hoped for is not produced in us by means of charity, but by faith. Besides, charity is not evidence, so this description does not fit it at all.

5. Since that good which inclines us to faith surpasses reason, it has no name. Therefore, the Apostle used the circumlocution, that which is to be hoped for, in its stead. This happens frequently in definitions.

6. Every power has an end, which is its own good, but not every power refers to the character of end or good in so far as it is good. Only the will does this. Hence it is that the will moves all the other powers, because all movement begins from an intending of the end. Therefore, although the true is the end of faith, the true does not express the character of end. Consequently, not the true, but something pertaining to the affections ought to be taken as the end of faith.

7. A thing to be loved can be present or absent, but a thing to be hoped for must be absent. Romans (8:24) says: “For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for?” Since, then, faith concerns what is absent, its end is more properly characterized by the thing to be hoped for than by the thing to be loved.

8. An article [of faith] is the subject matter of faith. But the thing to be hoped for should be considered not as its subject matter, but as its end. Thus, the reasoning does not follow.

9. Evidence (argumentum) has many meanings. Sometimes it means the very act of reason proceeding from principles to conclusions. And since the whole force of the proof (argumentum) consists in the middle term, the middle term is therefore sometimes called the argument (argumentum). Thence it is that the preface of a book is sometimes called the argument, because in it there is a sort of brief foretaste of the whole work that follows. Again, since something is made to appear through evidence and the principle by which something appears is light, the light itself, by which it is known, can be called evidence.

And faith is called evidence in these four ways. It is used in the first sense, in so far as reason assents to something because it was said by God. Thus, assent in the believer is caused by the authority of the speaker, since even in dialectical matters there is a proof (argumentum) from authority. In the second way, faith is called the evidence of those things which do not appear, in so far as the faith of the faithful is a means of proving the existence of what does not appear, or in so far as the faith of our fathers is a means of making us believe, or in so far as faith in one article is the means to faith in another, as the resurrection of Christ is to the general resurrection, as is clear from the first Epistle to the Corinthians (15:12). In the third way, faith is a brief foretaste of the knowledge which we shall have in the future. In the fourth way, faith is evidence with reference to the light of faith through which we know what is to be believed. Faith, however, is said to surpass reason, not because there is no act of reason in faith, but because reasoning about faith cannot lead to the sight of those things which are matters of faith.

10. The act of faith consists essentially in knowledge, and there we find its formal or specific perfection. This is clear from its object, as has been said. But, with reference to its end, faith is perfected in the affections, because it is by reason of charity that it can merit its end. The beginning of faith, too, is in the affections, in so far as the will determines the intellect to assent to matters of faith. But that act of the will is an act neither of charity nor of hope, but of the appetite seeking a promised good. From this it is clear that faith is not in two powers as in its subjects.

11. The answer to the eleventh difficulty is clear from the answer to the tenth.

12.When we say “substance of things to be hoped for,” we are not dealing with the act of faith, but only with its relation to its end. The act is indicated by the reference to the object, when we say “evidence of things that appear not.”

13. That to which the understanding gives assent does not move the understanding by its own power, but by the influence of the will. As a result, the good which moves the affective part has the role of first mover in the act of faith, but that to which the understanding gives assent is like a mover which is moved. Therefore, in the definition of faith we first give its reference to the good of the affections before the reference to its proper object.

14. Faith does not convince the mind or satisfy (arguere) it so as to assent because of the evidence of the thing, but because of the influence of the will, as was said. Therefore, the reasoning does not follow.

15. Knowledge can have two meanings: sight or assent. When it refers to sight, it is distinguished from faith. Thus, Gregory says: “Things seen are the object not of faith, but of knowledge.” According to Augustine, those things “which are present to the senses or the understanding” are said to be seen. But those things are said to be present to the understanding which are not beyond its capacity.

But, in so far as there is certainty of assent, faith is knowledge, and as such can be called certain knowledge and sight. This appears in the first Epistle to the Corinthians (13:12): “We see now through a glass in a dark manner.” And this is what Augustine says: “If it is not unfitting to say that we know that also which we believe to be most certain, it follows from this that it is correct to say that we see with our minds the things which we believe, even though they are not present to our senses.


Q. 14: Faith


In the third article we ask:

Is faith a virtue?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 23, 2, 4, sol. 1; 3, 1, sol. 2.; Ad Rom., c. 1, lect. 6; S.T., I-II, 65, 41, II-II, 4, 5; Q.D. de virt. in comm., 7.]


It seems that it is not, for

1. Virtue is distinguished from knowledge. So, virtue and knowledge are classified in different genera, as is clear from the Topics. But faith is contained under the genus of knowledge. Therefore, it is not a virtue.

2. It was said that, as ignorance is a vice because it is caused by a neglect of knowledge, so faith is a virtue because it resides in the will of the believer.—On the contrary, the mere fact that something is the result of guilt does not make it possible to put guilt in its definition. Otherwise, punishment, as such, would have guilt in its definition. Therefore, ignorance cannot be called a vice because it arises from the vice of neglect. For the same reason, faith cannot be called a virtue because it is consequent upon the will.

3. Virtue is so called because of its relation to the good. For virtue is “that which makes its possessor good, and makes his work good,” as is said in the Ethics. But the object of faith is the true, not the good. Therefore, faith is not a virtue.

4. It was said that the true which is the object of faith is the first truth, which is also the highest good, and, so, faith fulfills the definition of virtue.—On the contrary, in the distinction of habits and acts we must consider the formal distinction of objects, not their material distinction. Otherwise, sight and hearing would be the same power because the same thing happens to be audible and visible. But, no matter how much the good and the.true are identified in reality; formally, one aspect founds the concept of its truth and another of its goodness. Therefore, a habit which is directed toward the true, as such, is distinguished from that habit which is directed toward the good as such. Thus, faith is distinguished from virtue.

5. The mean and the extremes are in the same genus, as is clear from the Philosopher. But faith is a mean between scientific knowledge and opinion, for Hugh of St. Victor says that faith is “a certainty of mind which is more than opinion and less than scientific knowledge. But neither opinion nor science is a virtue. So, neither is faith.

6. The presence of the object does not destroy the habit of a virtue. But, when the object of faith, which is first truth, is present to Our minds so that we see it, we will not have faith but vision. Therefore, faith is not a virtue.

7. “Virtue is the fullest development of a power,” as is said in Heaven and Earth. But faith is not the fullest development of a human power, because it is capable of something fuller, plain sight. Therefore, faith is not a virtue.

8. According to Augustine, through the virtues the acts of powers are made easier. Faith, however, does not make the act of understanding easier, but rather hinders it, because by it our understanding is made captive, as is said in the second Epistle to the Corinthians (10:5). Therefore, faith is not a virtue.

9. The Philosopher divides virtues into intellectual and moral. This division is made according to immediate differences, because the intellectual is that which is in the part which is essentially rational, and the moral is that which is in the part which is rational by participation. There is no other sense in which we can understand rational; nor can human virtue be in any but the rational part taken in some sense. But faith is not a moral virtue, because, then, its subject matter would be actions and emotions. Nor is it an intellectual virtue, because it is not any of those five virtues which the Philosopher gives. For it is not wisdom, or understanding, or science, or art, or prudence. Therefore, faith is not a virtue at all.

10. That which belongs to a thing because of something extrinsic to it is not in that thing essentially, but accidentally. Faith, however, is not fittingly called a virtue except because of something else, as has been said, namely, because of the will. Therefore, to be a virtue belongs accidentally to faith; hence, faith cannot be classified as a species of virtue.

11. There is more perfect knowledge in prophecy than in faith. But prophecy is not classified as a virtue. Therefore, neither should faith be called a virtue.

To the Contrary

1. Virtue is a disposition of something perfect to that which is best. But this fits faith, for faith orders man to beatitude, which is that which is best. Therefore, faith is a virtue.

21. Every habit by which one is given strength to act and endurance to suffer is a virtue. But faith is of this nature, for “faith worketh by charity” (Gal 5:6). Faith also makes the faithful strong in resisting the devil, as is said in the first Epistle of Peter (5:9). Therefore, faith is a virtue.

3. Hugh of St. Victor says10 that there are three sacramental virtues by which we receive our initiation [into the Church]: faith, hope, and charity. We conclude as before.


Everybody agrees that faith is a virtue. For a proof of this we should note that virtue by its very name means the completion of an active power. Now, there are two kinds of active powers, one whose action terminates in something performed outside the agent, as the action of the power of building terminates in the edifice; and the other, whose action does not terminate outside of the agent, but remains within him’ as sight remains within one who sees, as the Philosopher says. In these two kinds of powers completion is taken in different senses. Since acts of the first type of power are not in the maker, but in what is made, as the Philosopher says, the completion of the power is to be considered in reference to that which is done. Thus, the power of one who carries burdens is said to consist in this, that he carries a very heavy burden, as is evident from Heaven and Earth; and the power of one who builds consists in this, that he makes a very good house. However, since the act of the other type of power remains in the agent and not in anything produced, the completion of that type of power is conceived according to its mode of acting, namely, that it act well and fittingly. And it is because of this that its act is called good. And so it is that in this type of power we call virtue that which makes the work good.

But the philosopher considers one thing as final good and the theologian another. For the philosopher considers as final good that which has a proportion to the human powers and exists in the act of man himself. Thus, he says that happiness is an activity. Therefore, according to the philosopher, a good act, whose principle is called a virtue, is said to be good without qualification in so far as it is in conformity with the potency as that which perfects it. Consequently, when the philosopher finds any habit which elicits such an act, he calls it a virtue, whether it be in the intellective part, as science, understanding of principles, and intellectual virtues of this sort, whose acts are the good of the power itself, namely, to consider the true; or whether it be in the affective part, as temperance, bravery, and the other moral virtues.

But the theologian considers as the final good that which is beyond the capacity of nature, namely, everlasting life, as has been said. Thus, he does not consider the good in human acts without qualification, because he puts the end not in the acts themselves, but in the disposition to that good which he makes the end. He says that only that act is completely good which has a proximate relation to the final good, that is, an act which merits eternal life. He says that every such act is an act of virtue, and every habit properly eliciting such an act he calls a virtue.

However, an act can be called meritorious only if it lies within the power of the agent. For it is necessary for one who merits to present something. Nor can he present something unless it is in some way his own, that is, from himself. Now, an act lies within our power, in so far as it belongs to our will, whether as elicited by the will, as to love and to wish, or as commanded by the will, as to walk and to talk. Hence, with reference to any such act, we can posit as a virtue that which elicits perfect acts of this type.

As has been said above, there is assent in belief only by reason of the command of the will. Therefore, it depends on the will according to its very nature. It is for this reason that to believe can be meritorious, and that faith, which is the habit eliciting the act of believing, is a virtue for the theologian.

Answers to Difficulties

1. Knowledge and science are not distinguished from virtue taken simply, but from moral virtue, which is more commonly called virtue.

2. Although the fact that something is caused by a virtue or a vice is not enough to put virtue or vice in its definition, the fact that it can be commanded by a virtue or a vice is enough to make an act be the act of a vice or virtue.

3. The good toward which a virtue gives an ordination should not be taken as the object of some act; rather, that good is the perfect act itself, which the virtue elicits. And, although the true differs from the good in its intelligible content, the act of considering the true is a good of the understanding, and to give assent to first truth on its own account is a good worthy of merit. Consequently, faith, which is ordained to this act, is called a virtue.

4. The answer to the fourth difficulty is clear from the third response.

5. Neither scientific knowledge nor opinion, but only faith, can be called a virtue in the sense in which we are now speaking of virtue. For faith is not a mean between science and opinion with reference to that which concerns the will, and it is according to this that it is classified as a virtue in the way we have mentioned. For in science and opinion there is no inclination because of the will, but only because of reason. If, however, we are talking about them with reference only to knowledge, neither opinion nor faith would be a virtue, since they do not have perfect knowledge. Only science has this.

6. First truth is the proper object of faith only under the character of nonappearing, as is clear from the definition of the Apostle, where it is said that the proper object of faith is that which does not appear. Consequently, when first truth is present, it loses its character of object.

7. Faith is said to be the fullest development of a power in so far as it adds to the power that which is needed to elicit a good and meritorious act. For a virtue really to be a virtue, however, it does not have to elicit the best act possible from that power, for in the same power there may be several virtues, one of which elicits an act more noble than another, as magnificence over liberality.

8. In any two things which are ordained to each other the perfection of the lower is for it to be subject to the higher, as the concupiscible which is subject to reason. Because of this, the habit of a virtue is said to make it easy for the concupiscible power to act, not in the sense so that it makes it pursue concupiscible objects without restraint, but because it brings it perfectly under the dominion of reason. Similarly, the good of understanding itself is to be subject to the will which adheres to God. Thus, faith is said to help the understanding in so far as it makes it captive under such a will.

9. Faith is not an intellectual or moral virtue, but a theological virtue. And, although the theological virtues have the same subject as moral and intellectual virtues, they have a different object. For the object of the theological virtues is the last end itself, whereas the object of the other virtues is the means to the end. Therefore, the theologians propose certain virtues which concern the end itself. But the philosophers do not do this, because the end of human life which the philosophers study does not transcend the power of nature. Hence, manis pursuit of that end is the result of a natural inclination, and to pursue that end he does not need to be elevated by any habits, as he does to pursue the end considered by the theologians, which transcends the power of nature.

10. Faith is in the intellect only in so far as it is commanded by the will, as is clear from what has been said. Hence, although that which comes from the will can be said to be accidental to the intellect, it is still essential to faith. The same holds for the rational element, which is accidental to the concupiscible, but essential to temperance.

11. Prophecy does not depend on the will of the prophet, as is said in the second Epistle of St. Peter(1:21). Faith, however, is to some extent dependent on the will of the believer. Therefore, prophecy cannot be called a virtue as faith can.


Q. 14: Faith


In the fourth article we ask:

What is the subject in which faith exists?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 23, 2, 3, sol. 1; S.T., II-II, 4, 2.]


It seems to be not the cognitive, but the affective, part, for

1. All virtue seems to exist in the affective part, since virtue is a kind of “well-ordered love,” as Augustine says. But faith is a virtue. Therefore, it exists in the affective part.

2. Virtue implies some perfection, since it is “the disposition of something perfect to that which is best,” as is said in the Physics. But, since faith has some perfection and some imperfection, the imperfection derives from the cognitive element and the perfection derives from the volitional element, namely, that it hold firmly to things invisible. Therefore, in so far as it is a virtue, it is in the affective part.

3. Augustine says: “Although a child does not have the faith which is in the will of those who believe, he has the sacrament of faith.” From this we clearly see that faith is in the will.

4. Augustine says: “The Apostle’s words, ‘Or what hast thou that thou hast not received’ (1 Cor 4:7), refer to the faith which is in the wills of those who believe.” We conclude as before.

5. A disposition and its perfection seem to belong to the same thing. But faith is a disposition for glory, which is in the affective part. Therefore, faith, also, is in the affective part.

6. Merit resides in the will, because only the will is master of its acts. But the act of faith is meritorious. Therefore, it is an act of the will, and so it would seem that faith resides in the will.

7.It was said that faith is in both the affective and the cognitive parts. —On the contrary, one habit cannot belong to two powers. Faith, however, is one habit. Therefore, it cannot be in the affective and cognitive parts, which are two powers.

To the Contrary

1. A habit which perfects a power has the same object as the power. Otherwise, the act of the power and of the habit could not be one. But faith has the same object, not as the affective part, but as the cognitive part, since the object of both is the true. Therefore, faith is in the cognitive part.

2. Augustine says that faith is the “enlightening” of the mind for the first truth. But to be enlightened pertains to the cognitive part. Therefore, faith is in the cognitive part.

3. If faith is said to be in the will, it is so only because we believe willingly. But, in like manner, all the activities of the virtues take place in us knowingly, as is clear from the Ethics. Therefore, for the same reason all the virtues would be in the cognitive part, which is obviously false.

4. Through grace, which is in the virtues, the image which is in the three powers of memory, intelligence, and will is refashioned. But the three virtues which primarily have reference to grace are faith, hope, and charity. Therefore, one of these is in the intelligence. It is evident, however, that neither hope nor charity is there. So, faith is there.

5. The cognitive power has the same relation to that which can or cannot be proved, as the affective power has to that which can or cannot be approved. But the virtue by reason of which we approve that which, according to human reason, should not be approved is in the affective part. This virtue is charity, by which we love our enemies, a thing which naturally seems something not to be approved. Therefore, faith, by which we prove or assert that which to reason seems incapable of proof, is in the cognitive part.


There are many, different opinions about this question. For some have said that faith is in both the affective and cognitive powers. But this cannot be true at all if it means that it is in both equally. For each habit must have one act, and one act cannot belong equally to two powers. Seeing this, some of these people” say that faith is principally in the affective power. But this does not seem to be true, since to believe implies some “thought,” as is clear from Augustine. Thought, however, is an act of the cognitive part. Faith is also in some sense called scientific knowledge and sight, as was said above. And all of these belong to the cognitive power.

Others” say that faith is in the understanding, but the practical understanding, because they say the practical understanding is that to which desire tends, or which desire follows, or which inclines to a work. And these three are found in faith. It is because of desire that one is inclined to faith, for we believe what we will. Desire itself also follows faith, inasmuch as the act of faith in some sense produces the act of charity. It also leads to a work, for “faith... worketh by charity” (Gal 5:6).

But these people do not seem to understand what the practical understanding is. For the practical understanding is the same as the operative understanding. Hence, only extension to a work makes an understanding practical. Reference to desire, however, either antecedent or consequent, does not withdraw the understanding from the category of speculative understanding. For, unless one were attracted to speculating about the truth, there would never be any pleasure in the act of speculative understanding. And this is contrary to the Philosopher, who says that the purest pleasure is in the act of speculative understanding.

Nor does every reference to a work make the understanding practical, because simple speculation can be for someone the remote occasion of doing something. Thus, a philosopher contemplates the immortality of the soul, and from this, as from a remote cause, he takes occasion to do something. But, to be practical, the understanding must be the proximate rule of action, as that by which one studies the thing to be done, the methods of operation, and the causes of the work. It is evident, however, that the object of faith is not a truth which can be produced, but the uncreated truth, which can be an object only of speculative understanding. Consequently, faith is in the speculative understanding, although it is the remote occasion of doing something. For this reason, also, activity is attributed to it only through the mediation of charity.

We must bear in mind, nevertheless, that it is not in the speculative understanding absolutely, but only in so far as it is subject to the will. Similarly, temperance is in the concupiscible power only in so far as it participates to some extent in reason. For, since the good of the act of a power requires its subjection to a higher power by following its command, it is necessary not only that the higher have the perfection to command or direct correctly, but that the lower have the perfection to obey promptly. Hence, he who has right reason, but an uncontrolled concupiscible appetite, does not have the virtue of temperance, because he is harassed by his passions, even though he is not led astray by them. Consequently, he does not perform the act of virtue with the ease and pleasure which are needed for virtue. But, to have temperance, the concupiscible appetite itself must be perfected by a habit so that it is subject to the will without any difficulty. It is in this way that the habit of temperance is said to be in the concupiscible appetite. Similarly, for the understanding promptly to follow the command of the will, there must be a habit in the speculative understanding itself. This is the divinely infused habit of faith.

Answers to Difficulties

1. That passage of Augustine should be understood of the moral virtues, about which he is there speaking. Or it can be said that we are speaking of the virtues with reference to their form, which is charity.

2. The cognitive part has some perfection in so far as it obeys a will which clings to God.

3. Augustine is talking about the act of faith, which, indeed, is said to be in the will not as in a subject, but as in a cause, in so far as it is commanded by the will.

4. The same holds for the fourth difficulty.

5. It is not necessary for disposition and habit to be in the same subject except when the disposition itself becomes the habit. This is evident in members of the body, in which an effect results in one member because of the disposition in another member. Something similar happens in the powers of the soul, for the perfection of knowledge in the understanding follows from a good disposition of the imagination.

6. Not only the act which the will elicits, but also that which it commands, is called an act of the will. Therefore, there can be merit in both, as is clear from what has been said.

7. There cannot be one habit belonging equally to two powers, but there can be a habit of one power in so far as it has an ordination to another. And this is the case with faith.


Q. 14: Faith


In the fifth article we ask:

Is charity the form of faith?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 23,3, 1, sol. 1; S.T., II-II, 4, 3; 23, 8; Q.D. de car., 3.]


And it seems that it is not, for

1. One of two things which are distinguished from each other as opposites cannot be the form of the other. But faith and charity arc distinguished from each other as opposites. Therefore, charity is not the form of faith.

2. It was said that they are distinguished from each other as opposites in so far as they are considered in themselves, but that charity is the form of faith in so far as they are directed to the one end which they merit by their acts.—On the contrary, two of the causes are extrinsic, namely, agent and end; and two are intrinsic, form and matter. Now, two diverse things can have one common extrinsic principle, but they do not on this account have one common intrinsic principle. Therefore, we cannot conclude from the ordination of faith and charity to one end that charity is the form of faith.

3. It was said that charity is not an intrinsic but an extrinsic form, a kind of exemplary form.—On the contrary: The facsimile takes its species from the exemplar. Hence, Hilary says: “The image is not of a different species from the thing which is represented.” But faith does not take its species from charity. Therefore, charity cannot be the exemplary form of faith.

4. Every form is either substantial, or accidental, or exemplary. But charity is not the substantial form of faith, for, if it were, it would be an integral part of faith. Nor is it an accidental form, for faith thus would be more noble than charity, since the subject is more noble than the accident. Nor is it the exemplary form, because charity then would be able to exist without faith, since the exemplar can exist without the facsimile. Therefore, charity is not the form of faith.

5. Reward is proportionate to merit. But our reward consists principally in three gifts: vision, which takes the place of faith; possession, which takes the place of hope; and enjoyment, which corresponds to charity. However, our reward consists mainly in vision, and, so, Augustine says: “Vision is the whole reward.” Therefore, merit and reward should both be attributed to faith. Therefore, in so far as they are ordained to acquiring merit, faith seems rather to be the form of charity, rather than charity that of faith.

6. For every subject of perfectibility there is one corresponding perfection. But the form of faith is grace. Therefore, charity is not its form, since charity is not the same as grace.

7. The Gloss on “Abraham begot Isaac” (Matt. 1:2) says: “Faith begot hope, and hope, charity.” This is taken as referring to acts, not to habits. Therefore, the act of charity depends on the act of faith. Now, a form does not depend on that of which it is the form, but the opposite. Therefore, charity is not the form of faith in so far as faith is ordained to a meritorious act.

8. Habits are distinguished through their objects. But the objects of faith and charity are diverse, namely, the good and the true. Therefore, the habits are formally distinct, too. But every act is from a form. Therefore, the acts of those habits are diverse. Consequently, charity cannot be the form of faith even in its ordination to act.

9. Charity is the form of faith in so far as it forms faith; therefore, if it forms faith only through an ordination to its act, charity will not be the form of faith, but its act.

10. The Apostle says: “And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three” (1 Cor. 13:13). Here, faith, hope, and charity are distinguished as opposed to each other. But he seems to be talking about formed faith, for formless faith is not considered to be a virtue, as will be said later. Therefore, formed faith is distinguished from charity, and, so, charity cannot be the form of faith.

11. For an act to be an act of virtue it must be morally good and voluntary. But reason is the principle of a morally good action, just as the will is the principle of a voluntary action. Therefore, something from reason is needed for an act of virtue, just as something from the will is needed. Therefore, just as charity, which is in the will, is the form of the virtues, so faith, which is in the reason, is also their form. Therefore, one should not be called the form of the other.

12. The same source gives a thing both life and its form. But spiritual life is attributed to faith, as is clear in Habakkuk (2:4): “But my just man liveth by faith.” Therefore faith, rather than charity, should be said to form the virtues.

13. The act of faith is formed in one who has grace. But it is possible for the act of faith of such a man to have no relation to charity. Therefore, the act of faith can be formed without charity. So, charity does not seem to be the form of faith even with reference to its act.

To the Contrary

1. That without which faith is formless is the form of faith. But without charity faith is formless. Therefore, charity is the form of faith.

2. Ambrose says: “Charity is the mother of all the virtues and forms all of them.”

3. A virtue is said to be formed in so far as it is able to elicit a meritorious act. But no act can be meritorious and acceptable to God unless it proceeds from love. Therefore, charity is the form of all the virtues.

4. The form of a thing is that from which it gets its power to act. But faith gets its power to act from charity, for “faith... worketh by charity” (Gal. 5:6). Therefore, charity is the form of faith.


On this question there are different opinions. Some have said that grace itself is the form of faith and of the other virtues, but no other virtue is a form except in so far as, in their opinion, grace is essentially identified with virtue. But this cannot be. For, whether grace and virtue differ essentially or only conceptually, grace refers to the essence of the soul and virtue to a power. And, although the essence is the root of all the powers, all the powers do not proceed from the essence in the same way. For some powers are naturally prior to others and move them. Consequently, it is necessary for habits in the lower powers to be formed through the habits which are in the higher powers. Thus, the formation of the lower virtues should come from some higher virtue and not immediately from grace.

Hence, it is commonly admitted that charity, as a sort of preeminent virtue, is the form of the other virtues, not only in so far as it is the same as grace or is inseparably connected with it, but also from the very fact that it is charity. And in this way, also, it is said to be the form of faith.

We should understand the manner in which faith is formed by charity in the following way. For, whenever there are two principles of motion or action with an ordination to each other, that in the effect which is due to the higher agent is, as it were, formal, and that which is from the lower agent is, as it were, material. This is clear in both physical things and moral matters.

For in the act of the nutritive power the power of the soul acts as first agent, and fiery heat acts as an instrumental agent, as is said in The Soul. And in flesh, which is produced by nutrition, the assembling of the parts, or dryness, or something of this sort, which comes from fiery heat, is material with reference to the species of flesh, which comes from the power of the soul. Similarly, when reason commands the lower powers, such as the irascible and concupiscible appetites, that in the habit of the concupiscible appetite which is from that appetite, namely, a certain inclination to some use of desirable things, is, as it were, material in temperance; whereas the order, which is of reason, and the rectitude, are formal. And the same holds in the other moral virtues. For this reason some philosophers have called all virtues, sciences, as is said in the Ethics.

Since, therefore, faith is in the understanding in so far as the understanding is moved and commanded by the will, that which is from knowledge is material in faith, but its formation must be received from the will. Accordingly, since charity is a perfection of the will, faith is formed by charity. And for the same reason so are all the other virtues, in so far as they are studied by the theologian, that is, in so far as they are principles of meritorious acts. Now, no act can be meritorious unless it is voluntary, as has been said. And, so, it is evident that all the virtues with which the theologian is concerned are in the powers of the soul in so far as they are moved by the will.

Answers to Difficulties

1. Charity is not called the form of faith in the way in which a form is part of an essence. For in that way it could not be distinguished from faith. It is called form in so far as faith acquires some perfection from charity. This is also the manner in which the higher elements in the universe are said to be the form of the lower elements, as air of water and water of earth, as is said in the Physics.

2. The answer to the second difficulty is clear from the first response.

3. The manner in which charity is called form approximates the manner in which we call an exemplar a form. For what there is of perfection in faith is derived from charity, so that charity has essentially what faith and the other virtues have by participation.

4 Since the habit of charity is not intrinsic to faith, it cannot be called either its substantial or its accidental form. But it can in a certain way be called an exemplary form. Nevertheless, it is not necessary that charity be able to exist without faith. For faith is not patterned on charity in so far as that which constitutes it faith is concerned, for in this way faith precedes charity in regard to the merely cognitional element of faith; rather, it is patterned on charity only in so far as faith is perfect. Hence, nothing prevents faith from being prior to charity in this regard, and charity from being unable to exist without it, while in some other respect charity may be the exemplar of faith which it always informs, in so far as faith is always present to it. But that which results in faith from charity is intrinsic to faith. We shall say later in what way this is accidental or substantial to faith.

5. Will and understanding precede each other in different ways. For the understanding precedes the will in the process of reception, since, if something is to move the will, it must first be received into the understanding, as is clear in The Soul. But, in causing motion or in acting, the will is prior, for every action or motion comes from a striving for a good. It is for this reason that the will, whose proper object is the good in its character as good, is said to move all the lower powers.

Reward, however, expresses the idea of reception, but merit expresses the idea of action. Hence it is that the whole reward is attributed mainly to the understanding, and vision is called the whole reward, because the reward begins in the understanding and is brought to completion in the affections. Merit, however, is attributed to charity, because the will, which charity perfects, is the first mover in the performance of meritorious works.

6. It is impossible for one thing to have many perfections in the same order. Now, grace is the first [that is, remote] perfection of the virtues, but charity is their proximate perfection.

7. The act of faith which precedes charity is an imperfect act awaiting completion from charity. For faith is prior to charity in one respect and subsequent to it in another, as has been said.

8. This difficulty proceeds correctly for the act of faith as it is in itself, but not as it is perfected by charity.

9. When a higher power is perfect, some of its perfection is found in the lower power. And, so, when charity is in the will, its perfection in some manner flows over into the intellect. So, charity forms not only the act of faith, but faith itself.

10. In those words the Apostle seems to be speaking of these habits without considering the character of virtue in them, but, rather, looking at them in so far as they are certain gifts and pcrfections. For this reason, in the same context he mentions prophecy and certain other charisms, which are not classified as virtues.

Even if he is speaking of them in so far as they are virtues, the reasoning does not proceed correctly. For division into opposites sometimes takes place between things, one of which is the cause or perfection of the other. Thus, local motion is distinguished from other types of motion, although it is, nevertheless, the cause of the others. So, charity is distinguished from the other virtues, although it is their form.

11. Reason can be considered in two ways. In one, it is taken in itself; in the other, in so far as it regulates the lower powers. In so far as it regulates the lower powers it is perfected through prudence. Thus it is that all the other moral virtues, by which the lower powers are perfected, are formed through prudence as by a proximate form. But faith perfects reason taken in itself, in so far as it considers the truth. Consequently, it does not belong to faith to form the lower virtues, but itself to be formed by charity, which forms the other virtues, even prudence itself, inasmuch as prudence itself, because of the end which is the object of charity, reasons about means to the end.

12. Something common is especially attributed to a thing in two ways, either because it is most perfectly appropriate to it, as we attribute knowledge to the understanding; or because it is first found there, as life is attributed to the plant soul, as is clear in The Soul, because life makes its first appearance in its acts. Spiritual life is, therefore, attributed to faith because spiritual life makes its first appearance in the act of faith, although its completion comes from charity, which for this reason is the form of the other virtues.

13. In one who has charity there can be no act of virtue not formed by charity. For, either the act will be directed to the proper end, and this can be only through charity in one who has charity, or the act is not directed to the proper end, and so is not an act of virtue. Consequently, it is not possible for an act of faith to be formed by grace and not by charity, since grace has no ordination to act except through the mediation of charity.


Q. 14: Faith


In the sixth article we ask:

Is formless faith a virtue?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 23, 3, 1, sol. 2; S.T., II-II, 4, 4-5.]


It seems that it is, for

1. That which faith obtains from charity cannot be essential to faith itself, since faith can exist without it. But a thing is not put in a genus by reason.of something accidental to it. Therefore, faith is not put in the genus of virtue by reason of its formation by charity. So, it is a virtue without the form of charity.

2. Only a virtue or a vice is opposed to a vice. But the vice of unbelief is not opposed to formless faith as to a vice. Therefore, it is opposed to it as to a virtue. We conclude as before.

3 It was said that unbelief is opposed only to formed faith.—On the contrary, habits must be opposed whose acts are opposed. But the acts of formless faith and unbelief, namely, assent and dissent, are opposed. Therefore, formless faith is opposed to unbelief.

4. A virtue seems to be nothing else but a habit which tends to perfect some power. But our understanding is perfected through formless faith. Therefore, it is a virtue.

5. Infused habits are more noble than acquired habits. But acquired habits, such as the habits of life in a society, are called virtues even apart from charity according to their classification by the philosophers. Therefore, the formless habit of faith, since it is an infused habit, is a virtue with much greater reason.

6. Augustine says that all the virtues except charity can exist without grace. Therefore, unformed faith, which exists without grace, is a virtue.

To the Contrary

1. All the virtues are connected with each other, so that a person who has one of them has all of them, as Augustine says. But formless faith is not connected with the others. Therefore, it is not a virtue.

2. There are no virtues in the evil spirits. But there is formless faith in the evil spirits, for “the devils also believe” (James 2:19). Therefore, formless faith is not a virtue.


If we take virtue in its proper sense, formless faith is not a virtue.

The reason for this is that virtue, properly speaking, is a habit capable of eliciting a perfect act. However, when an act depends on two powers, it cannot be said to be perfect unless the perfection is found in both powers. This is evident in the moral as well as the intellectual virtues. For knowledge of conclusions requires two things: an understanding of principles, and reasoning, which draws the conclusions from the principles. Therefore, whether one is mistaken or has doubts about principles, or whether there is some defect in his reasoning, or he does not grasp the force of the reasoning, in all these cases he will not know the conclusions perfectly. Consequently, he will not have scientific knowledge, which is an intellectual virtue. Similarly, the proper act of the concupiscible power depends on reason and the concupiscible power. Hence, if reason is not perfected by prudence, no matter what inclination to the good is in the concupiscible power, it cannot have its perfect act. For this reason there can be neither temperance nor any other moral virtue without prudence, as is said in the Ethics.

Since, therefore, the act of believing depends on the understanding and the will, as is clear from what has been said such an act cannot be perfect unless the will is made perfect by charity and the understanding by faith. Thus, formless faith cannot be a virtue.

Answers to Difficulties

1. Something can be accidental to a thing in so far as its natural constitution is concerned and essential to it with reference to its morality, that is, in so far as it is a virtue or a vice. Such a relation exists between eating and its due end or any other proper circumstance. Similarly, that which faith receives from charity is accidental to faith in its natural constitution, but essential to it with reference to its morality. Therefore, through charity it is put in the genus of virtue.

2.Vice is opposed not only to perfect virtue, but also to that which is imperfect among the virtues. Thus, intemperance is contrary to the natural aptitude for good which is in the appetite. And, so, unbelief is opposed to formless faith.

3 We concede the third difficulty.

4. Formless faith does not bring the understanding to a perfection sufficient for virtue, as is clear from what has been said.

5. The philosophers do not consider virtues as the principles of meritorious acts. Therefore, habits not formed by charity can be virtues for them, though not for the theologian.

6. Augustine takes virtue in the broad meaning of all habits which give the perfection needed for praiseworthy acts. We can also say that Augustine did not mean that habits existing without grace should be called virtues, but that, although some habits, which are virtues when grace is present, remain after grace leaves, it does not follow that they are then virtues.


Q. 14: Faith


In the seventh article we ask:

Is the habit of formless faith the same as that of formed faith?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 23, 3, 4, sol. 1, sol. 3; Ad Rom., c. 1, lect. 6; S.T., II-II, 4, 4.]


It seems that it is not, for

1. When grace comes, it has as much influence on one who believes as on one who does not believe. But, when the unbeliever is converted, the habit of faith is infused in him together with grace. Therefore, there is a similar infusion in the believer [that is, when he is reinstated in grace]; hence, the habit of formed faith is different from the habit of formless faith.

2. Formless faith is the principle of servile fear. But formed faith is the principle of holy or initial fear. But, when holy or filial fear arrives, servile fear is driven out. Therefore, also, when formed faith comes, formless faith is driven out. So, it is not the same habit for both.

3. As Boethius says, accidents can cease to exist, but they can in no wise undergo alteration. But the habit of formless faith is an accident. Therefore, it cannot undergo alteration so that it becomes itself the formed habit.

4 When life comes, what is dead leaves. But formless faith, which is “without works is dead,” as is said in James (2:26). Therefore, when charity, which is the principle of life, comes, formless faith is removed, and, so, does not become formed.

5. One thing does not result from two accidents. But formless faith is an accident. Therefore, it cannot unite with charity to make one thing, as would seem to be necessary if formless faith itself became formed.

6. Any things which differ generically also differ specifically and numerically. But formless faith and formed faith differ generically, since one is a virtue and the other is not. Therefore, they also differ specifically and numerically.

7. Habits are distinguished according to their acts. But formless faith and formed faith have different acts: to tend toward God by faith, to believe on God’s word, or in God. Therefore, they are different habits.

8. Different habits are lost by different vices, since each is lost because of its opposite, and each thing has only one opposite. But formed faith is lost through the sin of fornication, but formless faith is not, for it is lost only through the sin of unbelief. Therefore, formed and formless faith are different habits.

To the Contrary

1. James (2:20, 26) says: “Faith without works is dead” and the Gloss adds: “by which [works] it lives once more.” Therefore, the very formless faith which was dead is formed and comes to life again.

2. Things are not differentiated except by those things which are outside of their essences. But charity is outside of the essence of faith.

Therefore, the habit of faith is not differentiated because it has or does not have charity.


There are different opinions on this matter, for some say that a habit which was formless never becomes formed, but that a new habit, formed faith, is infused with grace. When it arrives, the habit of formless faith leaves. But this cannot be, for a thing is expelled only by its opposite. If, therefore, the habit of formed faith drove out the habit of formless faith, since it is not contrary to it except by reason of its formlessness, it would be necessary that the very formlessness belong to the essence of formless faith. Thus, it would be essentially an evil habit and could not be a gift of God.

Furthermore, when someone sins mortally, grace and formed faith are taken away. Still, we see that faith remains. Nor can it be shown that, as they say, the gift of formless faith is given them again, because then, from the very fact that someone had sinned, he would be made fit to receive a gift from God.

Others therefore say that the habit is not taken away, but just the act of formless faith is removed with the coming of charity. But neither can this stand, for thus the habit would remain idle. Furthermore, since the act of formless faith has no essential contrariety to the act of formed faith, it cannot be hindered by it. Nor, again, can it be said that both acts and habits are there together, for formed faith can perform every act which formless faith performs. Thus, the same act would come from the two powers, which is not reasonable.

Hence, we must say with the others that formless faith stays when charity comes, and is itself formed. In this way only the formlessness is removed. This can be seen from what follows. For in powers or habits we can see two sources of differentiation: objects and different ways of acting. Diversity of objects differentiates habits essentially, in the manner sight differs from hearing, and chastity from bravery. But, with reference to their manner of acting, powers or habits are not differentiated according to their essence, but according to completeness and incompleteness. For the fact that one sees more or less clearly, or performs chaste actions more or less readily, does not differentiate the power of sight or the habit of chastity, but does show that the power and habit are more perfect and less perfect.

Now, formed faith and formless faith do not have different objects, but only different ways of acting. For formed faith, assents to first truth with a perfect will, whereas formless faith does the same with an imperfect will. So, formed faith and formless faith are not distinguished as two different habits, but as a perfect habit and an imperfect habit. Consequently, since the same habit, which formerly was imperfect, becomes perfect, the very habit of formless faith later becomes formed.

Answers to Difficulties

1. Grace does not have less effectiveness when infused into one who has faith than when infused into one who has not faith. But the fact that it does not cause another habit of faith in one who already has faith is due to an extrinsic reason, namely, because it finds the habit already there. This is like the case in which one who is ignorant is taught by the instruction of the teacher, while one who knows does not acquire a new habit but is strengthened in the knowledge he had before.

2. The arrival of charity does not expel servile fear in its substance as a gift, but only with reference to its servility. Similarly, it is only with reference to its formlessness that faith is formed when grace arrives.

3. Although an accident cannot undergo alteration, the subject of the accident can be altered with reference to some accident. That accident is said to be altered in this way, as whiteness increases or decreases when the subject is altered with reference to whiteness.

4. When life comes, it is not necessary for that which is dead to leave, but for death to leave. Hence, not formless faith but only the formlessness is removed through charity.

5. Although one thing cannot arise from two accidents, one accident can be perfected through another, as color through light. In this way faith is perfected through charity.

6. Formless and formed faith are not said to differ according to genus, as though they were things existing in different genera. Rather, they are as the perfect, which attains to the character of the genus, and the imperfect, which has not yet attained to it. Thus, it is not necessary that they differ numerically, just as the embryo and the animal do not have to differ numerically.

7. To believe on God’s word, to believe in God, and to tend toward God by faith do not indicate different acts, but different circumstances of the same act of virtue. For in faith something derives from knowledge, inasmuch as faith is evidence. In this way the act of faith is said to believe on God’s word when there is question of the principle of this evidence. For one who believes something is moved to assent because it was said by God. But, when there is question of the conclusion to which he assents, he is said to believe in God. For first truth is the proper object of faith. With reference to what derives from the will, the believer in his act of faith is said to tend toward God by faith. Moreover, it is not completely an act of virtue unless it has all three of these circumstances.

8. By fornication and other sins except unbelief formed faith is lost, not with reference to the substance of the habit, but only with reference to its form.


Q. 14: Faith


In the eighth article we ask:

Is first truth the proper object of faith?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 74, 1, sol. 1; S.T., II-II, 1, 1; Q.D. de spe, 1.]


It seems that it is not, for

1. Faith is explained in the Creed. But in the creed there are included many things which refer to creatures. Therefore, first truth is not the only object of faith.

2. It was said that those things in the Creed which refer to creatures belong to faith nonessentially and secondarily.—On the contrary, by its nature the consideration of a science extends to everything within the power of the proper means from which it proceeds. But the means of faith is belief in God when He says something. For a believer is moved to assent because he thinks something was said by God. But we should believe God’s word not only about first truth, but about any truth. Therefore, any truth is of itself the subject matter and object of faith.

3. Acts are distinguished through their objects. But the act of faith and the vision of God in Himself are different acts. Therefore, since the object of the aforesaid vision is first truth itself, that will not be the object of the act of faith.

4. First truth is related to faith as light is to sight. But, of itself, light is not an object of sight; rather, color in act is, as the Philosopher says.,Therefore, first truth is not the essential object of faith.

5. Faith deals with propositions, for these alone can be true and an object of someone’s assent. But first truth is not a proposition. Therefore, the object of faith is not first truth.

6. If first truth were the essential object of faith, nothing which refers entirely to creatures would pertain to faith. But the resurrection of the body refers entirely to creatures, and still is numbered among the articles of faith. Therefore, first truth is not the only essential object of faith.

7. Just as the visible is the object of sight, so the credible is the object of faith. But many other things besides first truth are credible. Therefore, first truth is not the essential object of faith.

8. Things related are known with the same act of knowledge because one is included in the understanding of the other. But Creator and creature are thus related. Therefore, any cognitive habit which has the Creator as its object will have the creature as its object. So, first truth cannot alone be the object of faith.

9. In any knowledge the object is that to which the process leads us. That through which the process leads us to the object is the means. But in faith, by reason of first truth we are led to assent to certain truths about God and creatures, in so far as we believe God to be truthful. Therefore, first truth does not have the role of object of knowledge, but of means to knowledge.

10. Faith, like charity, is a theological virtue. But charity has not only God, but also the neighbor, for its object. Hence, there are two commandments of charity concerning love of God and of the neighbor. Therefore, faith, also, has for its object not only first truth but also created truth.

11. Augustine says that in heaven we shall see things themselves, though here we look at the images of things. But the sight of faith belongs to this life. Therefore, the sight of faith takes place through images. But the images through which our understanding sees are created things. Therefore, the object of faith is created truth.

12. Faith is a mean between scientific knowledge and opinion, as is clear from the definition of Hugh of St. Victor. But scientific knowledge and opinion deal with a proposition. Therefore, faith does, also. Hence, first truth, which is a concept, cannot be its object.

13. Prophetic revelation, through which things divine are announced to us, seems to be a source of faith. But the object of prophecy is not first truth, but, rather, created things, which are subject to determinate temporal differences. Therefore, first truth is not the object of faith.

14. Contingent truth is not first truth. But at least one truth of faith is a contingent truth. For it was contingent that Christ suffer, since it depended on His free will and that of those who killed Him. Nevertheless, we have faith in the passion of Christ. Therefore, first truth is not the proper object of faith.

15. Faith, properly speaking, is concerned only with propositions. But first truth is in certain articles of faith without the complexity of a proposition, as when we say: God, who suffered, or God, who died. Therefore, first truth is not there considered as the object of faith.

16. First truth has a double relation to faith: as that which bears witness, and as that with which faith is concerned. In so far as it bears witness, it cannot be called the object of faith, for under this aspect it is outside the essence of faith. Nor is it the object of faith in so far as it is that with which faith is concerned, for, thus, any proposition formed about first truth would be an object of faith. And this is evidently false. Therefore, first truth is not the proper object of faith.

To the Contrary

1. Dionysius says that faith is “concerned with the simple and never changing truth. But only first truth is such. Therefore.

2. A theological virtue has the same thing for its end and its object. But the end of faith is first truth, the plain sight of which faith merits. Therefore, its object, too, is first truth.

3. Isidore says that an article [of the Creed] is the perception of divine truth. But faith is contained in the articles [of the Creed]. Therefore, divine truth is the object of faith.

4. As charity is related to the good, so faith is related to the true. But the essential object of charity is the highest good, because charity loves God and the neighbor because of God. Therefore, the object of faith is first truth.


The essential object of faith is first truth. This should be understood from the following. Only that habit has the character of virtue whose act is always good. Otherwise, a virtue would not be the perfection of a power. Accordingly, since the act of our understanding is good because it considers the true, it must be impossible for a habit existing in the understanding to be a virtue unless it is such that by it one infallibly speaks the truth. For this reason opinion is not an intellectual virtue, whereas scientific knowledge and understanding of principles are, as is said in the Ethics.

However, faith cannot thus stand as a virtue, deriving from the evidence of things, since it deals with things which do not appear. Consequently, it must derive this infallibility from its adherence to some testimony in which the truth is infallibly found. But, just as every created being of itself is empty and liable to fail, unless it is supported by uncreated being, so all created truth is liable to fail except in so far as it is regulated by uncreated truth. Hence, to assent to the testimony of a man or an angel would lead infallibly to the truth only in so far as we considered the testimony of God speaking in them. Consequently, faith, which is classified as a virtue, must surpass the truth of man’s own understanding and thus make it embrace that truth which is in the divine knowledge. In this way, through the simple and never-changing truth the believer is freed from the instability and multiplicity of error, as Dionysius says.

Now, the truth of the divine knowledge is so constituted that it belongs first and foremost to the uncreated thing itself, but to creatures somehow subsequently, in so far as by knowing itself it knows everything else. Hence, faith, which through assent unites man to divine knowledge, has God as its principal object, and anything else as a consequent addition.

Answers to Difficulties

1. All those things included in the Creed which refer to creatures are matters of faith only in so far as something of first truth is connected with them. For the passion itself is not an object of faith except in so far as we believe that God suffered, nor is the resurrection an object of faith except in so far as we believe that it took place through divine power.

2. Although we must believe everything because of the divine testirnony, the divine testimony, like the divine knowledge, first and foremost refers to itself, and subsequently to other things. As is said in John (8:18): “I am one that gives testimony of myself, and the Father that sent me giveth testimony of me.” Thus, faith is principally about God, and about other things in consequence of this.

3. First truth, in so far as it appears in its proper form, is the object of the vision of heaven. But, in so far as it does not appear, it is the object of faith. So, although the object of both acts is the same thing in reality, it differs in intelligible aspect. The object thus formally different makes the species of the act different.

4. In some sense light is the object of sight and in another sense not. For, since light is seen by our sight only if through reflection or in sonic other way it is united to a body having a surface, it is not called the essential object of sight. This is, rather, color, which is always in a body having a surface. However, in so far as nothing can be seen except by reason of light, light itself is said to be the first visible thing, as the Philosopher says. Similarly, first truth is primarily and essentially the object of faith.

5. The thing known in so far as it exists in itself outside the knower is said to be the object of knowledge, although knowledge of such a thing takes place only through that which arises from it in the knower. In this way, the color of a stone, which is the object of sight, is known only through its species in the eye. Accordingly, first truth, which is in itself simple, is the object of faith. But our understanding receives it in its own manner by means of the composition [of judgment]. Thus, our understanding, by giving assent as true to the composition which is made in judgment, tends toward first truth as toward its object. Thus, nothing prevents first truth from being the object of faith, although faith treats of propositions.

6. The resurrection of the body and other things of this sort also pertain to first truth in so far as they are caused by divine power.

7. Everything worthy of belief must belong primarily to first truth and, secondarily, to created things because God bears witness to them, as is evident from what has been said. Other things worthy of belief are not the object of the faith with which we are now dealing.

8. The Creator is not the object of faith under the aspect of Creator, but under the aspect of first truth. Consequently, it is not necessary for creatures to be an essential object of faith. For it does not follow, from the fact that the knowledge of master and slave, as such, is the same, that whoever knows something about the master knows something about the slave.

9. Although we are led to creatures by reason of first truth, through it we are led mainly to first truth itself, since it gives witness primarily about itself. So, in faith, first truth acts both as means and object.

10. In the neighbor, charity loves only God. Therefore, it does not follow from this that the object of charity is anything other than the highest good.

11. The representations through which faith looks at something are not the object of faith, but that through which faith tends toward its object.

12. Although faith deals with a proposition in so far as we are concerned, it nevertheless deals with a simple truth in so far as there is question of the object to which we are led through faith.

13. Although prophecy has for its subject matter created and temporal things, it has the uncreated reality for its end. For all the prophetic revelations, even those made about created things, are ordained to make us know God. Therefore, prophecy leads to faith as to its end. Nor is it necessary for faith and prophecy to have the same object or subject matter. And if at times faith and prophecy deal with the same thing, still they do not treat it under the same aspect. Thus, the ancients had prophecy and faith about the passion of Christ. However, the prophecy had reference to that which was temporal in it, and faith to that which was eternal in it.

14. Faith does not concern the passion except in so far as it is connected with eternal truth, as the passion is considered with reference to God. For, although the passion, considered in itself, is contingent, still, as it falls under the divine foreknowledge, and as faith and prophecy concern it, it has changeless truth.

15. The subject of a proposition acts as matter for the whole proposition. So, although in such propositions, when we say that God has suffered, only the subject denotes something uncreated, the whole proposition is said to have something uncreated as its subject matter. Thus, it does not deny that faith has first truth for its object.

16. First truth is called the object of faith only in so far as faith concerns it. Nevertheless, it is not necessary that every proposition made about God be something to be believed, but only that to which divine truth bears witness. Similarly, mobile body is the subject of the philosophy of nature, yet not every proposition that can be formed about mobile body is subject to scientific knowledge, but only those which are proved from the principles of the philosophy of nature. Moreover, in faith the witness of first truth acts as a principle does in scientific demonstrations.


Q. 14: Faith


In the ninth article we ask:

Can faith deal with things which are known as scientific conclusions?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 24, 2, sol. 2; Ad Hebr., c. 11, lect. 1; S.T., I-II, 67, 3; II-II, 1, 5.]


It seems that it can, for

1. Anything which can be proved by a necessary argument can be known as a scientific conclusion. But, according to Richard of St. Victor, everything which must be believed has not only a probable argument, but also a necessary argument. Therefore, we can have scientific knowledge about things believed.

2. The divinely infused light of grace is more powerful than the light of nature. But we do not only believe, but know and understand, those things which are shown to us through the natural light of reason. Therefore, we also know and do not only believe those things which are made known to us through the divinely infused light of faith.

3. The testimony of God is more certain and effective than that of a man, no matter how much he knows. But one who proceeds [to conclusions] on the basis of the statement of someone who has scientific knowledge, himself achieves scientific knowledge, as is clear in the subalternate sciences, which borrow their principles from the subalternating sciences. Therefore, with much greater reason we have scientific knowledge of matters of faith, since they are based on divine testimony.

4. Whenever the understanding is forced of necessity to assent to something, it has scientific knowledge of those things to which it assents. For inference from what is necessary produces scientific knowledge. But one who believes necessarily assents to matters of faith, for St. James says (2:19): “The devils also believe and tremble.” This cannot be due to their will, since their will cannot do anything praiseworthy. So, they must necessarily give assent to matters of faith. Therefore, there can be scientific knowledge about matters of faith.

5. Those things which are known naturally are objects of scientific knowledge or are known with greater certainty than such objects. But “the knowledge of God is naturally implanted in us,” as Damascene says. Faith, however, is ordained to knowledge of God. Therefore, matters of faith can be objects of scientific knowledge.

6. Opinion is farther from scientific knowledge than faith is. But we can have scientific knowledge and opinion about the same thing, as happens when one knows one and the same conclusion through a demonstrative and a dialectical syllogism. Therefore, there can be scientific knowledge and faith about the same thing.

7. That Christ was conceived is an article of faith. But the Blessed Virgin knew this from experience. Therefore, the same thing can be known and believed.

8. That God is one is included among objects of faith. But philosophers give demonstrative proof of this. Therefore, it can be known scientifically. So, we can have faith and scientific knowledge about the same thing.

9. That God exists is an object of faith. However, we do not believe this because it is acceptable to God, for no one can think that something is pleasing to God unless he first thinks that there is a God to whom it is pleasing. Hence, the judgment by which one thinks that God exists precedes the judgment by which he thinks something is pleasing to God. Nor can the former cause the latter. But we are led to believe something which we do not know through that which we believe is pleasing to God. Therefore, that God exists is believed and known.

To the Contrary

1. First truth is the principal subject matter or object of faith. But man cannot have scientific knowledge about first truth, that is, about God, as we see from Dionysius. Therefore, we cannot have faith and scientific knowledge about the same thing.

2. It is by reason that scientific knowledge is made perfect. But reason destroys faith, “for faith deserves no merit when human reason offers it proof. Therefore, faith and scientific knowledge do not engage the same object.

3. The first Epistle to the Corinthians (13:10) says: “But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be put away.” The knowledge of faith is in part, that is, is imperfect; but the knowledge of science is perfect. Therefore, science destroys faith.


According to Augustine: “We believe those things which are not present to our senses, if the witness which is offered for them seems suitable. However, we see those things which are present either to the senses of the mind or of the body.”

This difference is quite clear with reference to the things which are present to the senses of the body, for among these it is evident what is present to them and what is not. But it is more obscure when we say something is present to the senses of the mind. Yet those things are said to be present to the understanding which do not exceed its capacity, so that the gaze of understanding may be fixed on them. For a person gives assent to such things because of the witness of his own understanding and not because of someone else’s testimony. Those things, however, which are beyond the power of our understanding are said to be absent from the senses of the mind. Hence, our understanding cannot be fixed on them. As a result, we cannot assent to them on our own witness, but on that of someone else. These things are properly called the objects of faith.

Consequently, the object of faith is that which is absent from our understanding. (We believe that which is absent, but we see that which is present, as Augustine says.) For “not present” we can say “the thing which does not appear,” that is, the thing not seen, for, as Hebrews (11:1) says: “faith is... the evidence of things that appear not.” Now, whenever the determinate principle of the proper object is lacking, the act also must necessarily cease. Hence, as soon as something begins to be present or to appear, it cannot be an object of an act of faith. Whatever things we know with scientific knowledge properly so called we know by reducing them to first principles which are naturally present to the understanding. In this way, all scientific knowledge terminates in the sight of a thing which is present. Hence, it is impossible to have faith and scientific knowledge about the same thing.

We must note, however, that a thing can be the object of belief in two ways. In one it is such absolutely, that is, it exceeds the intellectual capacity of all men who exist in this life, for instance, that there is trinity and unity in God, and so on. Now, it is impossible for any man to have scientific knowledge of these. Rather, every believer assents to such doctrines because of the testimony of God to whom these things are present and by whom they are known.

A thing is, however, an object of belief not absolutely, but in some respect, when it does not exceed the capacity of all men, but only of some men. In this class are those things which we can know about God by means of a demonstration, as that God exists, or is one, or has no body, and so forth. There is nothing to prevent those who have scientific proofs of these things from knowing them scientifically, and others who do not understand the proofs from believing them. But it is impossible for the same person to know and believe them.

Answers to Difficulties

1. For everything which must be believed, if it is not self-evident, there is an argument which is not only probable but necessary, “yet our diligence may not uncover that argument,” as Richard adds. So, for us, the arguments for matters of faith are unknown, although they are known to God and to the blessed who have vision and not faith about these things.

2. Although the divinely infused light is more powerful than natural light, in our present state we do not share it perfectly, but imperfectly. Therefore, because of this defective participation, through that infused light itself we are not brought to the vision of those things for the knowledge of which it was given us. But we will have it in heaven when we will share that light perfectly and in the light of God we will see light.

3. One who has a subalternate science does not perfectly possess the character of knowing unless his knowledge is united in some way with the knowledge of one who has the subalternating science. Nonetheless, the one who knows on the lower level is not said to have scientific knowledge about those things which he presupposes, but about the necessary conclusions which are drawn from the presupposed principles. In this sense, also, one who believes can be said to have scientific knowledge about those things which he concludes from the articles of faith.

4. It is not their wills which bring demons to assent to what they are said to believe. Rather, they are forced by the evidence of signs which convince them that what the faithful believe is true. However, these signs do not cause the appearance of what is believed so that the demons could on this account be said to see those things which are believed. Therefore, belief is predicated equivocally of men who believe and of the demons. And faith does not result in them from any infused light of grace as it does in the faithful.

5. God is an object of faith, not with reference to what is naturally known about God, but with reference to that which surpasses natural knowledge.

6. It does not seem possible for a person simultaneously to have scientific knowledge and opinion about the same thing, for opinion includes a fear that the other part [of the contradiction] is true, and scientific knowledge excludes such fear. Similarly, it is impossible to have faith and scientific knowledge about the same thing.

7. The Blessed Virgin could know that her Son was not conceived as a result of sexual intercourse. She could not, however, know what power caused that conception, but believed the angel who said: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee (Luke 1:3 5).

8. We do not say that the proposition, God is one, in so far as it is proved by demonstration, is an article of faith, but something presupposed before the articles. For the knowledge of faith presupposes natural knowledge, just as grace presupposes nature. But the unity of the divine essence such as is conceived by the faithful, that is to say, together with omnipotence, providence over all things, and the other attributes of this sort, which cannot be proved, makes up the article of faith.

9. Someone can begin to believe what he did not believe before but which he held with some hesitation. Thus, it is possible that, before believing in God, someone might think that God exists, and that it would be pleasing to God to have him believe that He exists. In this way a man can believe that God exists because such a belief pleases God, although this is not an article of faith, but preliminary to the article, since it can be proved by a demonstration.


Q. 14: Faith


In the tenth article we ask:

Is it necessary for man to have faith?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 24, 3, sol. 1; In Boet. De Trinit., 3, 1; C.G., I, 5; III, 118, 15 2; S.T., II-II, 2, 3; Expos. symb.]


It seems that it is not, for

1. As is said in Deuteronomy (32:4): “The works of God are perfect.” But nothing is perfect unless it is provided with those things which it must have to attain its proper end. Therefore, sufficient means to attain its final end are given to each thing when God creates its nature. But matters of faith are beyond the knowledge which belongs to men by reason of the constitution of their nature. Therefore, to reach his end man does not need faith, through which these things are perceived or known.

2. It was said that by reason of the constitution of his nature man receives those things which are necessary to reach his natural end, such as the happiness of life of which the philosophers speak, but does not receive the things needed to reach the supernatural end, which is everlasting happiness.—On the contrary, man, because of his essential constitution, is made to be a sharer of eternal happiness. It was for this that God created a rational nature which could know Him, as we see in the Sentences. Therefore, the principles through which he can reach that end should be innate in man’s very nature.

3. We have to have activity as well as knowledge to reach our end. But the habits of virtue given us to attain our supernatural end do not give us an ordination to works other than those toward which we are ordered by natural reason, but, rather, to a more perfect performance of those same works. For acquired and infused chastity seem to have the same act, namely, to control venereal pleasure. Therefore, to reach a supernatural end we do not need the infusion of a cognitive habit ordained to knowledge of something besides what we naturally know, but only to a more perfect knowledge of these same natural objects. Hence, it seems that to have faith in things which are not evident to reason would not be necessary for salvation.

4. A power has no need of a habit for that to which it has a natural determination, as is evident in irrational powers, as the nutritive and the generative, which carry on their activity without the mediation of a habit. Now, the human understanding is naturally directed to knowledge of God. Therefore, it does not need a habit to lead it to this knowledge.

5. That which can reach its final end by itself is more perfect than that which cannot do so. But brute animals can attain their ends by means of natural principles. Therefore, since man is more perfect than they, it seems that natural knowledge should be enough for him to reach his end. Thus, he does not need faith.

6. What is considered to be a vice does not seem necessary for salvation. But credulity is considered to be a vice. Thus, in Sirach (19:4) we read: “He that is hasty to give credit is light of heart.” Therefore, belief is not necessary for salvation.

7. Since God must be believed above all else, our belief should be greater in one through whom it is clearer that God is speaking. But it is clearer that God has spoken through the natural instinct of reason than through any prophet or apostle, since by this it is most certain that God is the author of all nature. Therefore, we should hold more firmly the things which reason proposes than those which the prophets and apostles preach, and which are the objects of faith. Therefore, since these latter sometimes seem to conflict with what natural reason dictates, as when they say that God is three and one, or that a virgin conceived, and so on, it does not seem reasonable to put faith in such things.

8. That which is rendered useless by the arrival of another thing does not seem to be needed for that thing. For it would not become useless unless there were some opposition between it and the other. Now, a thing does not incline toward its opposite; rather, it withdraws from it. But faith becomes useless when glory arrives. Therefore, faith is not necessary to obtain glory.

9. Nothing in order to reach its end needs that which destroys it. But faith destroys reason, for, as Gregory says: “Faith deserves no merit when human reason offers it proof.” Therefore, reason does not need faith to reach its end.

10. A heretic does not have the habit of faith. But, sometimes, a heretic believes in certain truths which are beyond the reach of reason. Thus, he may believe that the Son of God was made flesh, although he does not believe that He suffered. Therefore, the habit of faith is not needed to know things which are above reason.

11. When something is proved by means of many middle terms, the whole proof is ineffective if one of the middle terms is weak. This is evident in syllogistic deductions, where the existence of one false or doubtful proposition makes the whole proof ineffectual. But the truths of faith reach us through many intermediaries. For God told them to the apostles or prophets, who related them to their followers. These men in turn told others, and in this way they finally reached us through various intermediaries. Now, it is not certain that there was infallible truth in all of these intermediaries. For, since they were men, they could deceive and be deceived. Therefore, we can have no certainty about matters of faith, and so it seems foolish to assent to them.

12. That in a work which lessens the merit for eternal life does not seem necessary to obtain eternal life. But, since difficulty makes for merit, habit, which brings facility, lessens merit. Therefore, the habit of faith is not necessary for salvation.

13. The powers of reason are more noble than the powers of physical nature. But physical powers do not need habits for their acts. Therefore, understanding does not need the habit of faith for its acts.

To the Contrary

1. In Hebrews (11:6) we read: “But without faith it is impossible to please God.”

2. That without which man is damned is necessary for salvation. But faith is so needed, as appears in Mark (16:16): “He that believeth not shall be condemned.” Therefore, faith is necessary for salvation.

3. A higher life needs a higher knowledge. But the life of grace is higher than the life of nature. Therefore, it needs some supernatural knowledge, which is the knowledge of faith.


To obtain eternal life it is necessary to have faith in those things which are beyond the grasp of reason. We can understand this from what follows. For a thing is brought from imperfection to perfection only through the activity of something perfect. Nor does the imperfect thing at once in the very beginning fully receive the action of that which is perfect; at first it receives it imperfectly and, later, more perfectly. And it continues in this way until it reaches perfection. This is evident in all physical things, which acquire a perfection gradually.

We see the same thing in human works, especially in the leaming process. For in the beginning a man has incomplete knowledge, and, if he is to reach the perfection of scientific knowledge, needs an instructor to bring him to that perfection. Nor could the teacher do this unless he himself had full knowledge of the science, that is unless he understood the intelligible principles of the things which form the subject matter of the science. At the outset of his teaching, however, he does not explain to his pupil the intelligible principles of the things to be known which he intends to teach, because then, at the very beginning, the pupil would [have to] know the science perfectly. Instead, the teacher proposes some things, the principles of which the pupil does not understand when first taught, but will know later when he has made some progress in the science. For this reason it is said that the learner must believe. And he could not acquire mastery of the science in any other way unless he accepted without proof those things which he is taught at first and the arguments for which he cannot then understand.

The final perfection toward which man is ordained consists in the perfect knowledge of God, which, indeed, man can reach only if God, who knows Himself perfectly, undertakes to teach him. Early in his life, however, man is not capable of receiving perfect knowledge. So, he has to accept certain things on faith and by means of these he is led on till he arrives at perfect knowledge.

Now, some of these things are such that they can never be perfectly known in this life, for they wholly transcend the power of human reason. These we must believe as long as we are in this life. However, we shall see them perfectly in heaven.

There are others which we can know perfectly in this life, as, for instance, the things which we can prove conclusively about God. Still, in the beginning, we have to believe these for five reasons, which Rabbi Moses gives. The first reason is the depth and subtlety of these objects of knowledge which are farthest removed from the senses. Hence, at the very beginning, man is not qualified to know them perfcctly. The second reason is the weakness of human understanding when it begins to operate. The third is the number ofthings needed for a conclusive proof of these. And a man can learn them all only after a long time. The fourth reason is the disinclination for scientific investigation which some men have because they lack the proper temperament. The fifth is the need of engaging in other occupations to provide the necessities of life.

From all this it is clear that, if it were necessary to use a strict demonstration as the only way to reach a knowledge of the things which we must know about God, very few could ever construct such a demonstration and even these could do it only after a long time. From this it is evident that the provision of the way of faith, which gives all easy access to salvation at any time, is beneficial to man.

Answers to Difficulties

1. In the constitution of man’s nature full provision is made for him, in so far as, to attain the end which is within the power of nature, he is given principles which are capable of causing that end. However, for the end which is beyond his natural ability man is given principles which are not a cause of the end, but which give him a capacity for those things which do bring him to his end. For this reason Augustine says: “The capacity to have faith and charity is due to man’s nature, but their actual possession is due to the grace which the faithful receive.”

2. In the very beginning of creation, human nature was ordained to beatitude, not as to an end proper to man by reason of his nature, but given him solely by divine liberality. Therefore, there is no need for the principles of nature to have sufficient power to achieve that end without the aid of special gifts with which God in His generosity supplements them.

3. One who is some distance from an end can know the end and desire it; however, he cannot engage in activity which directly concerns the end, but only in that which is connected with the means to the end. Therefore, if we are to reach our supernatural end, we need faith in this life to know the end, for natural knowledge does not go that far. But our natural powers do extend to the means to the end, although not precisely as ordained to that end. Therefore, we do not need infused habits for any other activity than that which natural reason dictates, but just for a more perfect performance of the same activity. However, this is not the case with knowledge for the reason given above.

4. Our understanding does not have a natural determination to matters of faith in the sense that it should know them naturally, but it does in some sense have a natural ordination to a knowledge of them in so far as nature is said to have an ordination to grace by reason of a divine decree. Consequently, this does not remove the need we have for the habit of faith.

5. Man is more perfect than the other animals. However, nature does not determine what is necessary for him to reach his end as it does for other animals, and this for two reasons. First, since man is ordained to a higher end, therefore, even though he needs more helps to reach that end and natural principles are not enough for him, he is nonetheless more perfect. Second, the very fact that he can have many ways to reach his end is a perfection in man. For this reason he cannot be limited to one natural way as other animals are. But, instead of all the means which nature provides for other animals, man is given reason, through which he can take care of the necessities of this life and make himself fit to receive the divine helps for the future life.

6. Credulity is called a vice because it means an excess of belief, just as to be a drinker means an excess in drinking. However, one who believes God does not believe immoderately, because we cannot put too much faith in Him. So, the conclusion does not follow.

7. The apostles and prophets under divine inspiration have never said anything contrary to the dictates of natural reason. Nevertheless, they have said things which are beyond the comprehension of reason, and so to this extent seem to contradict reason, although they do not really oppose it. In a similar way, to an unlettered person it seems contrary to reason to say that the sun is larger than the earth and the diagonal is incommensurable with the side. However, these appear reasonable to those who are educated.

8. It is because of its imperfection that faith is rendered useless when glory arrives. And on this account it has a certain opposition to the perfection of glory. But, as far as the knowledge of faith is concerned, faith is necessary for salvation. For there is nothing unreasonable in the fact that something imperfect, which is directed to the perfection of the end, ceases to exist when the end is reached, as motion ceases to be when rest, which is its end, is reached.

9. Faith does not destroy reason, but goes beyond it and perfects it, as has been said above.

10. A heretic does not have the habit of faith even if it is only one article of faith which he refuses to believe. For infused habits are lost through one contrary act. And the habit of faith has this power, that through it the understanding of the believer is withheld from giving assent to things contrary to faith, just as chastity restrains us from acts opposed to chastity. Now, when a heretic believes something which is beyond the scope of natural knowledge, he does this not by reason of an infused habit, for such a habit would direct him equally to all objects of belief, but by reason of some human judgment, as happens also with pagans who believe certain things surpassing nature about God.

11. All the intermediaries through which faith comes to us are above suspicion. We believe the prophets and apostles because the Lord has been their witness by performing miracles, as Mark (16:20) says: “...and confirming the word with signs that followed.” And we believe the successors of the apostles and prophets only in so far as they tell us those things which the apostles and prophets have left in their writings.

12. There are two kinds of difficulty, one arising from the nature of the work itself, and such difficulty has value for merit; the other arising from the disorder or sluggishness of the will. This latter rather lessens merit, and habit destroys it but not the former.

13. Natural powers have a determination to one object, and so do not need a habit to give them this determination as do the rational powers, which are related equally to things opposed to each other.


Q. 14: Faith


In the eleventh article we ask:

Is it necessary to believe explicitly?

[Parallel readings: I Sent., 33, 5; III Sent., 25, 2, 1, sol. 1, 2; S.T., II-II, 2, 5.]


It seems that it is not, for

1. We should not posit any proposition from which an untenable conclusion follows. But, if we claim that explicit belief is necessary for salvation, an untenable conclusion follows. For it is possible for someone to be brought up in the forest or among wolves, and such a one cannot have explicit knowledge of any matter of faith. Thus, there will be a man who will inevitably be damned. But this is untenable. Hence, explicit belief in something does not seem necessary.

2. We have no obligation to that which is not within our power. But to believe something explicitly we have to hear it from within or without, for “faith cometh by hearing,” as is said in Romans (10:17). However, hearing is within the power of a person only if there is someone to speak. Thus, to believe something explicitly is not necessary for salvation.

3. Very subtle matters should not be taught to the uneducated. But there is nothing more subtle or more exalted than things which are beyond reason, such as the articles of faith. Therefore, such things should not be taught to the people. Therefore, at least not everybody is required to believe something explicitly.

4. Man is not bound to know that which even the angels do not know. But before the Incarnation the angels did not know the mystery of the Incarnation, as Jerome seems to say. Therefore, the men of those times, at least, were not bound to know or believe something explicitly about the Redeemer.

5. Many Gentiles were saved before the coming of Christ, as Dionysius says. However, they could know nothing explicitly about the Redeemer, since the prophets had not come to them. Therefore, explicit belief in the articles about the Redeemer does not seem necessary for salvation.

6. One of the articles of faith about the Redeemer concerns the descent into hell [that is, limbo]. But, according to Gregory, John doubted about this article when he asked: “Art thou he that art to come? “ (Mat 11:3). Therefore, since he is one of the greater men, for no one is greater than he, as is said in the same passage, it seems that even the greater men are not bound to know explicitly the articles about the Redeemer.

To the Contrary

1. Explicit belief in everything seems necessary for salvation, for everything pertains to faith in the same way. So, everything has to be believed explicitly for the same reason that one truth has to be believed explicitly.

2. Everyone is bound to avoid all errors which are against the faith. This can be done only by having explicit knowledge of all the articles which the errors oppose. Therefore, we have to have explicit belief in all the articles.

3. As commands direct our action, so articles direct our belief. But everyone is bound to know all the commandments of the Decalogue, for a man is not excused if he commits some sin through ignorance of the commandments. Therefore, everyone is also bound to believe all the articles explicitly.

4. just as God is the object of faith, so, also, He is the object of charity. But we should not love anything implicitly in God. Therefore, neither should we believe anything implicitly about Him.

5. A heretic, however uneducated, is questioned about all the articles of faith. This would not be done if he were not bound to believe all of them explicitly. This brings us to the same conclusion as before.

6. The habit of faith is specifically the same in all believers. If, then, some of the faithful must believe everything explicitly, all are bound to the same thing.

7. Formless faith is not enough for salvation. But to believe implicitly is to have formless faith, for superiors on whose faith depends the faith of uneducated people, who believe implicitly, often have formless faith. Therefore, to believe implicitly is not enough for salvation.


Properly speaking, that is called implicit in which many things are contained as in one, and that is called explicit in which each of the things is considered in itself. These appellations are transferred from bodily to spiritual things. When a number of things are contained virtually in one thing, we say they are there implicitly, as, for instance, conclusions in principles. A thing is contained explicitly in another if it actually exists in it. Consequently, one who knows some general principles has implicit knowledge of all the particular conclusion. One, however, whoactually considers the conclusions is said to know them explicitly. Hence, we are also said explicitly to believe certain things when we affirm those things about which we are actually thinking. We believe these same things implicitly when we affirm certain other things in which they are contained as in general principles. Thus, one who believes that the faith of the Church is true, implicitly in this believes the individual points which are included in the faith of the Church.

We must note, accordingly, that there are some matters of faith which everyone is bound to believe explicitly in every age. Other matters of faith must be believed explicitly in every age but not by everyone. Still other matters everyone must believe explicitly, but not in every age. And, finally, there are things that need not be believed explicitly by everyone nor in every age.

That all the faithful in every age must believe something explicitly is evident from the fact that there is a parallel between the reception of faith with reference to our ultimate perfection and a pupil’s reception of those things which his master first teaches him, and through which he is guided to prior principles. However, he could not be so guided unless he actually considered something. Hence, the pupil must receive something for actual consideration; likewise, the faithful must explicitly believe something. And these are the two things which the Apostle tells us must be believed explicitly: “For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and is the rewarder to them that love Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Therefore, everyone in every age is bound explicitly to believe that God exists and exercises providence over human affairs.

However, it is not possible for anyone in this life to know explicitly the whole of God’s knowledge, in which our beatitude consists. Yet it is possible for someone in this life to know all those things which are proposed to the human race in its present state as first principles with which to direct itself to its final end. Such a person is said to have faith which is completely explicit. But not all believers have this completeness; hence, there are levels of belief in the Church, so that some are placed over others to teach them in matters of faith. Consequently, not all are required explicitly to believe all matters of faith, but only those are so bound who are appointed teachers in matters of faith, such as superiors and those who have pastoral duties.

And even these are not bound to believe everything explicitly in every age. For there is a gradual progress in faith for the whole human race just as there is for individual men. This is why Gregory says4 that down the ages there has been a growing development of divine knowledge.

Now, the fullness of time, which is the prime of life of the human race, is in the age of grace. So, in this age, the leaders are bound to believe all matters of faith explicitly. But, in earlier ages, the leaders were not bound to believe everything explicitly. However, more had to be believed explicitly after the age of the law and the prophets than before that time.

Accordingly, before sin came into the world, it was not necessary to believe explicitly the matters concerning the Redeemer, since there was then no need of the Redeemer. Nevertheless, this was implicit in their belief in divine providence, in so far as they believed that God would provide everything necessary for the salvation of those who love Him. Before and after the fall, the leaders in every age had to have explicit faith in the Trinity. Between the fall and the age of grace, however, the ordinary people did not have to have such explicit belief. Perhaps before the fall there was not such a distinction of persons that some had to be taught the faith by others. Likewise, between the fall and the age of grace, the leading men had to have explicit faith in the Redeemer, and the ordinary people only implicit faith. This was contained either in their belief in the faith of the patriarchs and prophets or in their belief in divine providence.

However, in the time of grace, everybody, the leaders and the ordinary people, have to have explicit faith in the Trinity and in the Redeemer. However, only the leaders, and not the ordinary people, are bound to believe explicitly all the matters of faith concerning the Trinity and the Redeemer. The ordinary people must, however, believe explicitly the general articles, such as that God is triune, that the Son of God was made flesh, died, and rose from the dead, and other like matters which the Church commemorates in her feasts.

Answers to Difficulties

1. Granted that everyone is bound to believe something explicitly, no untenable conclusion follows even if someone is brought up in the forest or among wild beasts. For it pertains to divine providence to furnish everyone with what is necessary for salvation, provided that on his part there is no hindrance. Thus, if someone so brought up followed the direction of natural reason in seeking good and avoiding evil, we must most certainly hold that God would either reveal to him through internal inspiration what had to be believed, or would send some preacher of the faith to him as he sent Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10:20)..

2. Although it is not within our power to know matters of faith by ourselves alone, still, if we do what we can, that is, follow the guidance of natural reason, God will not withhold from us that which we need.

3. Matters of faith are not presented to the uneducated for minute explanation, but in a general way, for in this way they have to believe them explicitly as has been said.

4. According to Dionysius and Augustine, the angels knew the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ before men did, since it was through the angels that the prophets were told of the Incarnation. But Jerome says that the angels learned this mystery through the Church, in so far as the mystery of the salvation of the Gentiles was fulfilled through the preaching of the Apostles. In this way, their knowledge was more complete with reference to certain circumstances, since they now saw as present what they had foreseen as future.

5. The Gentiles were not established as teachers of divine faith. Hence, no matter how well versed they were in secular wisdom, they should be counted as ordinary people. Therefore, it was enough for them to have implicit faith in the Redeemer, either as part of their belief in the faith of the law and the prophets, or as part of their belief in divine providence itself. Nevertheless, it is likely that the mystery of our redemption was revealed to many Gentiles before Christ’s coming, as is clear from the Sibylline prophecies.

6. Although John the Baptist should be counted among the greater persons of his time because God made him a herald of truth, it was not necessary for him to believe explicitly all the matters of revelation which are explicitly believed after Christ’s passion and resurrection in the age of grace. For, in his time, the knowledge of the truth had not reached the fullness which it received especially with the coming of the Holy Spirit. Some, however, say that in this passage John did not ask personally for himself, but for his disciples who doubted about Christ. Some also say that this was the question not of one who doubted but of one who had a holy admiration for the humility of Christ, that He would deign to descend into hell.

Answers to Contrary Difficulties

1. All things which pertain to faith do not have the same rational connection with the direction of man to his final end, for some are more obscure than others and some are more necessary to it than others. Therefore, some articles rather than others must be believed explicitly.

2.One who does not believe all the articles explicitly can still avoid all errors because the habit of faith keeps him from giving assent to things against the articles which he knows only implicitly. Thus, for instance, if something unusual is proposed, he is suspicious of it and delays assent until he gets instruction from him whose duty it is to decide about doubtful matters of faith.

3. The commandments of the Decalogue deal with things that are dictated by natural reason. Therefore, everyone is required to know them explicitly. A similar argument cannot be used for the articles of faith, which are above reason.

4. Love is distinguished into implicit and explicit only in so far as it follows faith. For love terminates at some individual thing existing outside the soul, whereas knowledge terminates at that which is within the perception of the soul, which can perceive something in general or in particular. Therefore, faith and charity do not work in the same way.

5. An uneducated person who is accused of heresy is not examined on all the articles of faith because he must believe them all explicitly, but because he must not obstinately maintain the opposite of any of the articles.

6. That some of the faithful must believe10 explicitly what others have to believe only implicitly does not come from a difference in the habit of faith, but from different duties. For one who is made a teacher of the faith should know explicitly those things which he must or ought to teach. And the higher his position is, the more perfect a knowledge of matters of faith he should have.

7. Ordinary people do not have implicit faith in the faith of some particular men, but in the faith of the Church, which cannot be formless. Furthermore, one is said to have implicit faith in the faith of another, because of an agreement in belief, and not because they have the same mode of informed or formless faith.


Q. 14: Faith


In the twelfth article we ask:

Is there one faith for moderns and ancients?

[Parallel readings: III Sent., 25, 2, 2, sol. 1; S.T., II-II, 1, 7; 2, 7; 174, 6.]


It seems that there is not, for

1. Universal knowledge differs from particular knowledge. But the ancients knew the matters of faith as it were in general, believing them implicitly, whereas moderns believe them explicitly and in particular. Therefore, the faith of the ancients and moderns is not the same.

2. Faith concerns a proposition. But the propositions which we believe are not the same as the ones they believed, as, for instance, Christ will be born, and Christ has been born. Therefore, our faith is not the same as that of the ancients.

3. In matters of faith a definite time is a necessary element of belief. Thus, a man would be called an unbeliever if he believed that Christ had not yet come, but would come. But there is temporal variation in our faith and that of the ancients, for we believe about the past what they believed about the future. Hence, our faith and that of the ancients is not the same.

To the Contrary

1. In Ephesians (4:5) we read: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”


We must firmly hold that there is one faith for ancients and moderns; otherwise, there would not be one Church. To support this position some have said that the proposition about the past which we believe and the one about the future which the ancients believed is the same proposition. But it does not seem right that the proposition should remain the same when its essential parts are changed. For we see that propositions are changed by reason of changes in the subject and verb.

For this reason, others have said that the propositions which we believe and which they believed are different, but that faith does not concern propositions but things. The thing, however, is the same, although the propositions are different. For they say that it belongs intrinsically to faith to believe in the resurrection of Christ, but only accidentally to faith to believe that it is or was. But this is obviously false, for, since belief is called assent, it can only be about a proposition, in which truth or falsity is found. Thus, when I say: “I believe in the resurrection,” I must understand some union [of subject and predicate]. And I must do this with reference to some time which the soul always adds in affirmative and negative propositions, as is said in The Soul. Accordingly, the sense of “I believe in the resurrection” is this: “I believe that the resurrection is, was, or will be.”

Therefore, we must say that the object of faith can be considered in two ways. First, we have the object in itself as it exists outside the soul. And it is properly in this sense that it has the character of object and is the reason why habits are one or many. Second, we have the object as it exists in the knower as participated by him. Accordingly, we have to say that, if we take as the object of faith the thing believed as it exists outside the soul, it is in this way that each thing is related to us and to the ancients. And faith gets its unity from the oneness of the object. However, if we consider faith as it is in our perception of it, it is multiplied according to different propositions. But faith is not differentiated by this diversity. From this it is evident that faith is one in every way.

Answers to Difficulties

1. To know in general and in particular differentiates knowledge only with reference to the manner of knowing, not with reference to the thing known, from which the habit has its unity.

2. The answer to the second difficulty is clear from what has been said.

3. Time does not change because of something in the thing, but because of relation to us or the ancients. For there is one time in which Christ suffered. Under different aspects it is called past or future for some people in comparison with things which precede or follow.